Pitt Picked Third

NEWPORT, R.I. -- The Pitt football team has been selected to finish third in the BIG EAST's annual preseason media poll released Tuesday, as part of the conference's summer kickoff at the Viking Hotel.

Pittsburgh received one first place vote and 128 total points behind South Florida which tallied 149 total points and one first place vote. Defending co-Big East champion West Virginia was picked to win the Conference, totaling 22 of the 24 first place votes and 189 points overall.

Pitt (5-7, 4-3 Big East) returns 15 starters from last year's team including the nation's leader in tackler in senior Scott McKillop (Export, Pa.-Kiski Area) and the BIG EAST's freshman season rushing record holder in sophomore LeSean McCoy (Harrisburg, Pa.-Bishop McDevitt).

McKillop, a first-team All-Big East and All-America selection, is a preseason Chuck Bednarik Award nominee after leading the nation with 12.58 tackles per game a year ago. The centerpiece of the defensive unit that ranked fifth in the nation in total yards (297.67 per game), McKillop is also a strong candidate for the Butkus Award, Bronko Nagurski and Rotary Lombardi Award.

As a true freshman, McCoy garnered Freshman All-American, Big East Rookie of the Year and first-team All-BIG EAST Conference honors after rushing for 1,328 yards and 14 touchdowns in his first year at Pitt. He also led all freshman running backs nationally with 110.67 yards per game.

Also garnering national attention will be senior Derek Kinder (Albion, N.Y.-Albion). Kinder is seeking a healthy return after missing the entire 2007 season due to a torn ACL sustained during training camp. He enjoyed an outstanding junior season in 2006, earning First Team All-Big East honors after leading the Panthers in both receptions (57) and receiving yards (847). He was also a 2006 semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award, presented annually to the country's top wideout.

Pitt opens it's 2008 season against Bowling Green Aug. 30 at noon at Heinz Field. The game will be televised nationally on ESPNU. On the heels of two Big East championships in the past three seasons, West Virginia has been tabbed as the favorite to take the 2008 title in the conference's annual preseason media poll, released Tuesday as part of the Conference's Summer Kickoff at the Hotel Viking.

The Mountaineers (11-2, 5-2 Big East in 2007) received 22 of a possible 24 first-place votes to finish with 189 points in the poll of media representatives from each of the eight Big East markets. West Virginia, which earned the Big East's Bowl Championship Series berth last season on its way to a 48-28 win against Oklahoma in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, will be led by two-time Big East Offensive Player of the Year Pat White, who enters the 2008 season as a bona fide Heisman Trophy candidate. The Mountaineers are under the direction of new head coach Bill Stewart, who was promoted to the top spot in January after leading West Virginia to the bowl victory against the Sooners.

USF (9-4, 4-3 Big East) received one first-place vote and was second to West Virginia with 149 points in the preseason balloting. The Bulls enjoyed a banner year in 2007, reeling off six straight wins to open the season and ascending to the No. 2 spot in the national rankings midway through the year. Head coach Jim Leavitt has 17 starters returning from that group, including consensus all-America defensive end George Selvie and quarterback Matt Grothe, who ranked third in the Big East in total offense last year.

Rutgers (8-5, 3-4 Big East) was projected for fourth in the Big East after a 2007 season in which the Scarlet Knights made their third straight appearance in a bowl game. Head coach Greg Schiano will need to find a way to replace the production of running back Ray Rice (2,012 rushing yards in 2007), but has the benefit of 16 returning starters back for 2008. Wide receivers Kenny Britt and Tiquan Underwood became the first Big East teammates with 1,000 receiving yards in the same season last year.

Cincinnati (10-3, 4-3 Big East) was fifth in the preseason poll after the Bearcats registered their first 10-win season since 1951. The Bearcats were ranked No. 17 in the final Associated Press poll of last season, their first year under head coach Brian Kelly. A veteran secondary, led by unanimous All-Big East First-Team cornerback Mike Mickens, highlights a group of 12 returning starters from last year.

Connecticut (9-4, 5-2 Big East) was sixth in the poll, just one point behind Cincinnati in the balloting. The Huskies proved the prognosticators wrong a year ago when they won a share of the Big East championship despite being picked seventh in the 2007 preseason poll. Head coach Randy Edsall has 19 starters back from last year's championship team, including All-Big East Second-Team running back Andre Dixon.

Louisville (6-6, 3-4 Big East) was seventh in the preseason poll as the Cardinals look to replace quarterback Brian Brohm, who threw for 10,775 yards in his career. Head coach Steve Kragthorpe will turn to highly regarded senior Hunter Cantwell to run the Louisville offense, which ranked sixth nationally in yards per game a year ago.

Syracuse (2-10, 1-6 Big East) finished eighth in the preseason balloting. Head coach Greg Robinson has 13 returning starters from last year and should get a boost from the return of several players who were sidelined with injuries a year ago. Quarterback Andrew Robinson will be a key player on an offense that should feature better balance with a group of talented running backs in place.

2008 BIG EAST FOOTBALL

PRESEASON MEDIA POLL

Rank Team Pts.

1. West Virginia (22) 189

2. USF (1) 149

3. Pittsburgh (1) 128

4. Rutgers 110

5. Cincinnati 98

6. Connecticut 97

7. Louisville 69

8. Syracuse 24

First Place Votes in Parentheses

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