I thought long and hard about skipping the Big East preview, but with only 8 teams it was easy to get through. It makes for a terrible by reading. but you get it anyway.
Louisville (2011 Record ATS: 8-5)
The program that Papa John built may be an easy target for humor, but the man in charge certainly knows how to pick a head coach. After the now disgraced Bobby Petrino vaulted the Cardinals to BCS prominence, Charlie Strong has the program back in the Big East driver’s seat. The formula is in place for gambling success – a trustworthy coach, stud QB (Teddy Bridgewater) and a strong defense. Without much direct competition, I’m expecting big things from the Cardinals.
South Florida (2011 Record ATS: 4-8)
Here I go again, getting sucked in by BJ Daniels and South Florida. It was a very odd season for the Bulls – they started the season with a major upset over Notre Dame and looked like world beaters in starting 4-0. Then the bottom fell out, losing and failing to cover 7 of 8. Has the team quit on Skip Holtz? I’ll assume that’s not the case and point out that of those 7 losses, 4 were by a field goal and 1 was by 6 points. A bounce here and there and the season could have been much different. In this conference I’ll take a flyer on the Bulls, especially in September where they’re historically fast starters.
Syracuse (2011 Record ATS: 3-9)
It’s hard to figure out what happened to Syracuse last season, a program that had a bit of a resurrection in 2010 and carried over the momentum to the tune of a 5-2 start in 2011, only to finish out the year with 5 straight losses. The play of QB Ryan Nassib appears to be the primary culprit, throwing 5 INTs to only 6 TDs in the final 5 games. The Orange do tend to go as Nassib does, as they are 4-8 over the last two years in games when he throws a pick and and 8-4 when he doesn’t. I do like Doug Marrone and they return 15 starters, so my gut tells me to keep an eye on this team.We may have to wait until conference season though, as dates with betting bomb Northwestern and USC aren’t games I’m likely to chase.
Rutgers (2011 Record ATS: 9-4)
Rutgers has essentially been the same team the last 5 years – good defense but cross your fingers on the quarterback that gets trotted out there. Last season the stars aligned for a 9-4 season and payouts for bettors. While I have a hard time seeing them hit the 9-cover plateau again, there is just enough bad in the Big East that Rutgers might get away with it. Aside from a trip to Arkansas I don’t see a lot of land mines on the schedule, and 8 covers isn’t out of the question. Still, with a new coach I’m not counting on it.
Pittsburgh (2011 Record ATS: 7-6)
Trying to keep up with Pitt is like keeping up with John Mayer’s love life – not consistent enough to get a feel and disgusting to think about anyway. On their 4th coach in 3 years, Pitt is back to “run the ball and play D” under Paul Chryst. Tino Sunseri’s head has to be spinning. Honestly, I don’t have a clue what will come out of Pitt and I’m not even going to try until I see a few games. At Virginia Tech on September 15th should be worthy of tuning in for research purposes.
UConn (2011 Record ATS: 4-8)
I see no reason to expect anything other than the same brand of bad, boring football I’ve grown to love betting against at UConn.
Cincinnati (2011 Record ATS: 8-5)
As Bearcats fans last season learned, leaving your team in the hands of someone named Munchie is a scary proposition. Under QB Zach Collaros the ‘Cats were 8-1 but only 2-2 when Munchie Legaux subbed in for the injured Collaros. In a system where just about everything relies on the play of the quarterback, we’ll have to wait and see how he looks as the full time starter. 8 covers is going to be hard to duplicate, so point the arrow down.
Temple (2011 Record ATS: 9-4)
The Owls were straight cash to start the season a year ago, and though they eventually faded a bit they finished strong and whipped Wyoming in the If You Have Bowl Game and No One Shows Up Did It Occur? Bowl. I never thought this would be written, but the Big East is a step up in class, at least compared to the MAC, and we’ll have to see how they adjust. Nonetheless, I’m not saying I won’t throw a small play on Temple at least once this year.