Miami, the defending National Champion, received all 24 first-place votes. The ‘Canes are led by All-BIG EAST First Team selection Ken Dorsey. The senior quarterback won the Maxwell Award last season as College Football's Outstanding Player. Overall, UM brings back nine players who earned first or second team all-conference honors a year ago. The Hurricanes set a BIG EAST scoring record for the second straight year, finishing with 475 points. Six starters also return on a defense that led the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 9.4 points per contest.
Projected to finish second is Virginia Tech. The Hokies will take the field with 11 returning starters, including five from a defensive group that was second in the nation in total (237.8 ypg) and scoring defense (13.4 ppg). On offense, the Hokies have two players who have won major BIG EAST awards. Sophomore running back Kevin Jones was the BIG EAST Rookie of the Year last season after finishing fifth in the league with 957 rushing yards. He will be joined by senior tailback Lee Suggs. Two seasons ago, Suggs shared Offensive Player of the Year accolades after setting single-season league scoring records with 168 points and 28 touchdowns.
Syracuse was chosen to finish in third place. The Orangemen recorded their third 10-win season under head coach Paul Pasqualoni in 2001. SU is led by senior linebacker Clifton Smith. An All-BIG EAST First Team choice, he had 94 tackles last year. The Orange will be looking to make their sixth bowl appearance in the last seven years. Boston College was chosen fourth for the third year in a row. Senior quarterback Brian St. Pierre tossed a conference-best 25 touchdown passes last season, the third-highest total ever by a BIG EAST player. BC is looking to qualify for a fourth straight bowl game for the first time in school history.
Pittsburgh was selected fifth. The Panthers boast seven returning starters from a defense that was seventh in the NCAA rankings in total defense (284.6 yards per game). The team closed last year with six straight wins, including a victory in the Tangerine Bowl. West Virginia, picked for sixth, hopes to rebound from just its fifth losing season since 1980. Senior tailback Avon Cobourne leads the Mountaineers. He has 18 100-yard rushing games in his career.
Temple and Rutgers round out the poll at seventh and eighth. The Owls have one of the country's top defenders in defensive lineman Dan Klecko. He is the lone unanimous All-BIG EAST First Team defensive choice that will see action in 2002. Rutgers mentor Greg Schiano will field a more experienced squad after 14 true freshmen played a year ago. Senior tight end L.J. Smith, named to the all-conference second team last season, leads the squad.