Big East Up For Grabs?

Defending co-champion West Virginia appears to be an overwhelming favorite to win the Big East Conference this season, if the media covering the team and college football coaches are to be believed, while South Florida is second.

And the remaining teams in the Big East, including Pittsburgh, all have their work cut out for them to win the league title. Just ask Panthers coach Dave Wannstedt.

"I definitely think West Virginia is the favorite,'' Wannstedt said. "To me, they're still the team. They were the champs last year, and they're the team to beat. When you look at the Conference after that, it's very wide open. (And)South Florida's certainly got a lot of good guys returning.

"In making these kinds of preseason evaluations, I think you have to look at quarterback. South Florida's got Matt Grothe coming back, who's an excellent player. Rutgers returns a three-year starter at quarterback (Mike Teel). (But) it's going to be very competitive. I have no doubt.

"Connecticut, they have the junior-college quarterback (Tyler Lorenzen) come in last year,'' Wannstedt added, "and nobody dreamed that he would play as well as he did. And we've never had a team go undefeated in the Big East. That's saying it all right there. So, it's going to be very competitive.''

Wannstedt wouldn't speculate where his Pitt squad would fit in, although the Big East media predicted a third-place finish for the Panthers in Conference play, but the players had their own idea.

"The West Virginia game last year proved that we can play at a high level against any team, but we just have to do it on a more consistent basis,'' Pitt quarterback Bill Stull said. "We can set the tone for that by having a good camp, but I'm certain that we have the talent to beat any Big East team.''

Panthers star running back LeSean McCoy was equally as optimistic.

"Oh, yeah, there's no question,'' McCoy said. "We definitely have enough talent on this team. Our defense, the way it played last season, all last season, really, proved it can stop any offense in the country. That's for sure.

"And offensively, we have a lot of weapons. We're much deeper at quarterback, where the younger guys are the most experienced. Running back, wide receiver, tight end, we're loaded at every spot. The offensive line, we're not as experienced, but there's a lot of talent there. A lot of talent.''

And if that talent comes to the forefront, the Panthers could be the team to beat in the Big East this season.

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