Big East Preview

Top-25 showdowns, longstanding rivalries, intriguing road trips, new head coaches and a stadium enhancement dot the Big East landscape as the 2010 college football season begins.

THE BACKS ARE BACK

All eight Big East teams return their top rusher from 2009. Four of the eight went over 1,000 yards: Pitt's Dion Lewis (1,799 yards), WVU's Noel Devine (1,465), UConn's Jordan Todman (1,188) and Syracuse's Delone Carter (1,021). The others are: Rutgers' Joe Matinek (967), Cincinnati's Isaiah Pead (806), USF's B.J. Daniels (772) and Louisville's Victor Anderson (473).


ACTIVELY RUSHING

West Virginia running back Noel Devine enters the 2010 season ranked second among active Bowl Subdivision players in career rushing yards. Devine has rushed for 3,381 career yards, trailing only Brigham Young's Harvey Unga (3,455) among active players.


ON FIRE

Cincinnati has won 18 consecutive regular-season games. The 2009 season, in which Cincinnati finished 12-1, marked the first time that the Bearcats went undefeated in the regular season since the 1918 team was 3-0-2.


SOMETHING TO BUILD ON

Syracuse ranked sixth nationally in sacks last season and 13th nationally in rushing defense. The Orange finished the 2009 season as the Big East leader in rushing defense (101.8 yards per game).



CINCINNATI at Fresno State
Sat 9/4
10:00 PM
ESPN2
Saturday's game will be the second meeting between Cincinnati and Fresno State … The only previous matchup was Cincinnati's 28-20 win at Nippert Stadium Sept. 26, 2009 … Bearcat QB Tony Pike threw for 300 yards and three touchdowns, with WR Mardy Gilyard going for 177 yards and two TDs on nine receptions … Fresno State had possession for 43:42 in last year's game.

Cincinnati begins its quest for a third consecutive outright Big East title, but the Bearcats will have a new head coach on the sideline for this year's run … Head coach Butch Jones is no stranger to championship programs, though, as he won Mid- American Conference titles in 2007 and 2009 at Central Michigan … Coincidentally, Jones succeeded Brian Kelly as Central Michigan's head coach before following Kelly at Cincinnati … Cincnnati has won 18 straight regular-season games … The Bearcats were ranked No. 3 in last year's final Bowl Championship Series standings … Cincinnati is the first team listed as receiving votes in both preseason national polls … Jones will have to replace the starting quarterback and the Bearcats' top receiver from last year, but has experienced people in place … QB Zach Collaros made four starts in place of Tony Pike last year and threw for 1,434 yards and 10 touchdowns with just two interceptions … Collaros also ran for 344 yards and four TDs … RB Isaiah Pead ran for 806 yards and nine touchdowns last year and could play more of a role … WR Armon Binns is the top returner among a talented group of receivers … Binns had 888 yards and 11 touchdowns on 61 receptions in 2009 … The defense is paced by LB J.K. Schaffer, who had 100 tackles and three interceptions last year … K Jake Rogers handled both placekicking and punting duties last year.

Fresno State went 8-5 in a wild 2009 season … Two of the five losses came in double-overtime, including a 35-28 setback to Wyoming in the New Mexico Bowl when the Cowboys erased an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit … That result was just one game removed from the regular-season finale, when the Bulldogs got a 53-52 win against Illinois when the winning two-point conversion was tipped into the hands of an offensive lineman, who barreled in from four yards out with two seconds left … Fresno State, which has become well known for its willingness to play — and win — on the road, has seven home games on its schedule for the first time in nearly 20 years … The Bulldogs will be without first round draft pick Ryan Mathews, who led the nation in rushing last year (1,808 yards) … QB Ryan Colburn threw for 2,459 yards and 19 touchdowns against 11 interceptions last year … LB Ben Jacobs led the defense with 106 tackles.


CONNECTICUT at Michigan
Sat 9/4
3:30 PM
ABC
Saturday's game will be the first meeting on the gridiron between Connecticut and Michigan … The Huskies are 2-0 all-time against Big Ten opponents with wins against Indiana in 2003 and 2006 … Saturday's game is expected to feature the largest crowd to see Connecticut play … Connecticut played in front of 80,795 in last year's overtime win at Notre Dame Nov. 21, 2009 … Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez was 4-0 against Connecticut as head coach at West Virginia … Big East teams are 1-5 all-time against Michigan.

Connecticut carries a four-game winning streak into the 2010 season after the Huskies rallied to finish 8-5 overall and 3-4 in the Big East last year … Connecticut's five losses were by a combined 15 points and the largest margin of defeat was a pair of four-point setbacks to West Virginia and Rutgers … The Huskies closed last year with a solid 20-7 win against South Carolina in the PapaJohns.com Bowl … Head coach Randy Edsall's next win will give him sole possession of Connecticut's all-time record for coaching victories … The Huskies were picked fourth in the Big East preseason media poll, earning one first-place vote … Connecticut's strength on offense is centered around a stout offensive line that returns four starters, including All-Big East First Team OG Zach Hurd … That unit helped two tailbacks reach 1,000 rushing yards last year, including RB Jordan Todman, who ran for 1,188 yards and 14 touchdowns … QB Zach Frazer threw for 1,461 yards, 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions last year, but had seven TD passes against just two interceptions in his last five games … The defense is led by All-Big East First Team LB Lawrence Wilson, who led the conference with 140 tackles … LB Scott Lutrus was an All-Big East Second Team selection in 2008 and had 69 tackles in an injury-shortened 2009 season.

Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez, who won four Big East titles as head coach at West Virginia, looks for his first winning season in Ann Arbor as the Wolverines finished 5-7 in 2009 … Michigan's defensive coordinator is former Syracuse head coach Greg Robinson … Michigan had enjoyed 40 straight winning seasons and 33 consecutive bowl appearances prior to 2008, but have been below .500 in back-toback seasons … Rodriguez has not announced his starting quarterback against Connecticut … QB Tate Forcier saw most of the snaps last season, but Denard Robinson and true freshman Devin Gardner are candidates as well … WR Roy Roundtree led the team with 32 catches and 434 receiving yards … Michigan has moved to a 3-3- 5 base defense that was highly successful for Rodriguez at West Virginia … Eight defensive starters return from last season.


LOUISVILLE vs. Kentucky
Sat 9/4
3:30 PM
ABC
Saturday's game is the 23rd meeting between Louisville and Kentucky in a series that dates to 1912 … Kentucky holds a 13-9 series lead and has won the last three matchups … Last year's game saw Kentucky take advantage of a late turnover to score a 31-27 win in Lexington … Both schools feature new head coaches this season in Louisville's Charlie Strong and Kentucky's Joker Phillips … Strong was 7-0 against Kentucky as Florida's defensive coordinator.

Louisville unveils an expanded stadium and sees its head coach make his debut with Saturday's game … The Cardinals went 4-8 overall and 1-6 in the Big East last season … Louisville has won seven of its last 10 nonconference games … The Cardinals will go with QB Adam Froman for the season-opener following a competitive training camp … Froman played in eight games last season, throwing for 1,354 yards and six touchdowns with five interceptions … Froman had a toucdown pass in each of his last six games … RB Victor Anderson — the 2008 Big East Rookie of the Year — was limited to just 473 rushing yards and five touchdowns in an injury-shortened season, but still led the Cardinals in rushing … Anderson is the featured man in a solid group of tailbacks that includes RB Bilal Powell (392 yards, 4 TDs) … WR Doug Beaumont is a veteran with 100 career catches and 1,215 career yards, but is looking for his first career touchdown … The defense, which allowed 26.2 points per game last year, figures to improve under Strong, who was the defensive coordinator on two national championship teams at Florida … CB Johnny Patrick had two interceptions and 53 tackles last year … CB Darius Ashley is a converted running back who had 464 rushing yards and four touchdowns last year.

Kentucky withstood a rash of injuries to register its second straight 7-6 season in 2009, giving the Wildcats their fourth straight winning campaign … Kentucky was 3-5 in the SEC, finishing fourth in the East Division … Head coach Joker Phillips has named QB Mike Hartline his Opening Day starter … Hartline is a veteran who has started 14 games in the past two seasons, throwing for 802 yards with six touchdowns and seven interceptions in 2009 … The player to watch on offense is RB Derrick Locke, an All-SEC Second Team selection last season who skipped the NFL Draft to return for his senior year … Locke rushed for 907 yards and six touchdowns on 195 carries in 2009 … WR Randall Cobb is a converted quarterback who was Kentucky's top receiver last year … Cobb caught 39 passes for 447 yards and four touchdowns … The strength of the Wildcat defense figures to be on the defensive line, with three returning starters and seven of the top eight men in the rotation back … LB Danny Trevathan had 82 tackles last season — the most among returning players.


PITTSBURGH at Utah
Thu 9/2
8:30 PM
Versus
Thursday's game will be the second matchup between Pittsburgh and Utah and the first regular-season meeting between the teams … The only previous game was Utah's 35-7 win in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl Jan. 1, 2005 … Utah QB Alex Smith threw for 328 yards and four touchdowns, while WR Paris Warren had 15 receptions for 198 yards and two TDs to complete the Utes' 12-0 season … It was the final game for each head coach at his respective school as Pittsburgh's Walt Harris left for Stanford and Utah's Urban Meyer took over at Florida.

Pittsburgh was the clear favorite in the preseason Big East media poll as the Panthers received 22 of a possible 24 first-place votes … The optimism stems from the return of, among others, four players who have been tabbed as preseason all-America selections by national publications … The returning group includes six players who were All-Big East picks last year … RB Dion Lewis became the first player since Michael Vick (in 1999) to be named Big East Offensive Player of the Year and Big East Rookie of the Year in the same season … Lewis ran for 1,799 yards, breaking LeSean McCoy's Big East freshman record … WR Jon Baldwin had 57 receptions for 1,111 yards and eight touchdowns last season … The offensive line is anchored by All-Big East First Team OT Jason Pinkston … QB Tino Sunseri will make his first career start … DE Greg Romeus was the Big East Defensive Player of the Year in 2009 (sharing the honor with former teammate Mick Williams) … Romeus registered eight sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss last season … K/P Dan Hutchins was an All-Big East Second Team selection as a placekicker last year.

Utah went 10-3 overall and 6-2 in the Mountain West Conference last season, finishing No. 18 in both national polls … The Utes were 37-27 winners against California in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, giving Utah its ninth straight bowl win — the longest active streak in the nation … A charter member of the Mountain West Conference, Utah will join the Pac-10 beginning in 2011 … Utah has won 17 straight home games and enters the 2010 season with the third-longest home winning streak in the nation (Oklahoma 29, Boise State 26) … The Utes have eight returning starters on offense, including RB Eddie Wise, an All-MWC First Team pick who ran for 1,069 yards and 12 touchdowns last year … QB Jordan Wynn took over as the starter for the last five games and finished with 1,329 passing yards and eight touchdown passes … WR Jereme Brooks (56 receptions, 696 yards, 7 TDs) is the top returning receiver … Utah returns three starters from last year on the defensive line, but has to replace all three linebackers and three of the four starters in the secondary … DT Sealver Siliga had 49 tackles and 6.5 tackles for loss last year.


RUTGERS vs. Norfolk St.
Thu 9/2
7:30 PM
ESPN3
Thursday's game will be just the second meeting between Rutgers and Norfolk State … The only previous matchup was a 59-0 Rutgers win Sept. 15, 2007 … After taking a 3-0 lead through the first quarter, the Scarlet Knights unloaded for 42 secondquarter points to hold a 45-0 advantage at halftime of that game … Rutgers scored touchdowns on seven consecutive possessions at one point, including three rushing TDs by Ray Rice, who finished with 72 yards on 12 carries.

Rutgers was picked fifth in the Big East preseason media poll … The Scarlet Knights went 9-4 overall and 3-4 in the Big East last season, finishing tied with Connecticut and USF for fourth in the 2009 standings … Rutgers was ranked No. 1 among Bowl Subdivision programs in the most recent NCAA multi-year Academic Progress Rate data … Rutgers is enjoying its most successful run in 30 years — the Scarlet Knights have won eight or more games in each of the last four seasons … Prior to the current streak, Rutgers hadn't won eight games since 1979 … Rutgers, Utah, Georgia and Southern California are the only teams in the nation that have won bowl games in each of the last four seasons … QB Tom Savage — a true sophomore — enters the 2010 season as the Big East's most experienced starting quarterback … Savage made 11 starts last season and threw for 2,211 yards and 14 touchdowns … RB Joe Martinek flirted with 1,000 yards (967) and had nine rushing touchdowns last year … WR Mohamed Sanu emerged as a threat as a receiver, behind center and out of the backfield … Sanu caught 51 passes for 639 yards and three TDs while rushing for 346 yards and five TDs as a true freshman … S Joe Lefeged (44 tackles, 1 INT, 4 pass breakups) leads a defense that held seven opponents to fewer than 20 points last year.

Norfolk State won its last four games of the 2009 season to finish with a 7-4 overall record and a 5-3 mark in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference … The Spartans finished third in the MEAC last season and were picked third in this year's preseason poll of coaches and sports information directors … Norfolk State trailed South Carolina State and Florida A&M in the preseason poll … Norfolk State has had just two winning seasons as a Division I program, but those have come in the last three years (8-3 in 2007 and 7-4 in 2009) … Head coach Pete Adrian played parts of three seasons at West Virginia … RB DeAngelo Branche was the MEAC's third-leading rusher last season, finishing the year with 922 rushing yards and 10 toucdowns … LB Anthony Taylor was fourth in the MEAC in tackles last year (81) to go with 12.5 tackles for loss and five sacks.


SYRACUSE at Akron
Sat 9/4
6:00 PM
ESPN3.com
Saturday's game will be the third meeting between Syracuse and Akron and the first to be played on Akron's home turf … The schools split the two previous meetings, with Akron taking a 42-28 win at the Carrier Dome in 2008 and the Orange getting a 28-14 win at home last year … Syracuse RB Delone Carter keyed last year's win with 170 rushing yards and three touchdowns while the Orange defense held the Zips to zero net rushing yards.

Syracuse eyes its first postseason appearance since 2004 as the Orange come off a 4-8 season in Doug Marrone's first year as head coach at his alma mater … Syracuse, which plays at Washington next week, is the only Big East team to open the season with back-to-back road games … The Orange figure to be keyed by a defense that led the Big East against the run last season (101.8 yards per game) and was sixth nationally in sacks (35) … LB Derrell Smith was an All-Big East Second Team pick last year after he led the conference with four forced fumbles and was fifth in tackles (8.1 per game) … LB Doug Hogue had 9.5 sacks last season to rank second in the BIG EAST … The defense returns all four starters in the secondary and three of the four on the defensive line … The offense will be paced by RB Delone Carter, a bruising back who ran for 1,021 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2009 … QB Ryan Nassib played in 10 games last year in support of starter Greg Paulus and takes over as the starter … Nassib completed 36 of 68 passes for 422 yards and three touchdowns against just one interception … Three of the top four leading receivers from last year return … P Rob Long is one of the nation's best punters (43.6 yards per punt in 2009), while K Ryan Lichtenstein was 6-of-7 from 40 yards or longer.

Akron looks to rebound from a 3-9 season that saw the Zips finish sixth in the East Division of the Mid-American Conference (2-6) … First-year head coach Rob Ianello was most recently the assistant head coach for offense at Notre Dame and served as the interim head coach for the Fighting Irish after the dismissal of Charlie Weis … Akron offensive line coach Mitch Browning was Syracuse's offensive coordinator in 2008, while defensive line coach Derrick Jackson was the defensive line coach at Syracuse from 2007-09 … QB Patrick Nicely has been tabbed as the Opening Day starter behind center … Nicely started seven games as a true freshman last year, throwing for 1,349 yards and six touchdowns with six interceptions … The offense will need to fill the void left by the departure of last year's leading rusher and four of the top five receivers … The Zips' top player is LB Brian Wagner, who led the MAC in tackles as a freshman (132) and was named to the All-MAC First Team … The top four tacklers from last year return.


USF vs. Stony Brook
Sat 9/4
7:00 PM
None
Saturday's game will be the first meeting between USF and Stony Brook … USF has not lost to a Championship Subdivision team since Nov. 13, 2009, when the Bulls — FCS members themselves at the time — fell 42-23 to Hofstra … The game will be Stony Brook's first against a Bowl Subdivision opponent … USF faced a Big South opponent last season, when the Bulls were 59-0 winners against Charleston Southern.

USF plays its first game under new head coach Skip Holtz Saturday … Holtz, who enjoyed successful coaching stops at Connecticut (1994-98) and East Carolina (2005- 09), replaced Jim Leavitt, who had been on the USF sideline since the program's inception in 1997 … Holtz most recently led East Carolina to consecutive Conference USA titles in 2008 and 2009 … The Bulls were 8-5 overall and 3-4 in the Big East last season … USF reeled off five straight wins to begin the season, but were 3-5 down the stretch … The Bulls have been ranked in the top 25 during each of the last three seasons … QB B.J. Daniels made 10 starts last season in place of Matt Grothe, the Big East's career leader in total offense who suffered a season-ending injury in the third game of the season … Daniels threw for 1,983 yards and 14 touchdowns with nine interceptions and was third in the Big East in pass efficiency (139.5) … Daniels also rushed for 772 yards and nine touchdowns and was eighth in the conference in rushing … With WR A.J. Love sidelined with a knee injury, WR Dontavia Bogan (22 receptions, 305 yards, 4 TDs) is the top available wideout … The defense has to replace six starters, including five All-Big East selections … LB Sabbath Joseph (48 tackles) is the only returning player among the top seven tacklers from last year.

Stony Brook went 6-5 overall and 5-1 in the Big South Conference in 2009, tying Liberty for the Big South title … Before taking his current position, Stony Brook head coach Chuck Priore had reeled off 30 consecutive wins as head coach at Trinity (Conn.) … Priore was 31-1 in his last four years at Trinity, with three straight undefeated seasons … The Seawolves return just four offensive starters, but have their starting signal-caller back in QB Michael Coulter … Coulter threw for 2,060 yards and 15 touchdowns against 10 interceptions last year … WR Jordan Gush had 26 catches for 413 yards and a team-high six TDs … Similarly, Stony Brook has just four defensive starters back … FS Arin West was second on the squad in tackles (80) and had team highs of three interceptions and three fumble recoveries … Stony Brook's first three games of the season are against a Bowl Subdivision team (USF), a Division II team (American International) and a Championship Subdivision team (Brown)


WEST VIRGINIA vs. Coastal Carolina
Sat 9/4
3:30 PM
Big East Network
Saturday's game will be the first meeting between West Virginia and Coastal Carolina … It will be just the fourth meeting between a Big East team and an opponent from the Big South Conference and the first against Coastal Carolina … The Big East is 3-0 against the Big South … West Virginia has won its last five season-openers.

West Virginia extended its streak of nine-win seasons to five with last year's 9-4 campaign … The Mountaineers have won 67 games in the last seven years, good for 12th among Bowl Subdivision programs … West Virginia, which was 5-2 in the Big East in 2009, hasn't finished lower than second in the conference since 2001 … The Mountaineers were 7-0 at Milan Puskar Stadium last year, running the table at home for the first time since 1993 … West Virginia will go with a new starting quarterback for the second straight year as QB Geno Smith takes over … Smith saw limited action last year, but completed 65.3 percent of his passes (32 for 49, 309 yards) … Smith has the luxury of established veterans around him with four returning starters on the offensive line and two key seniors at skill positions … RB Noel Devine was a unanimous All-Big East First Team pick and a Maxwell Award semifinalist last year after he ran for 1,465 yards and 13 touchdowns … WR Jock Sanders, meanwhile, had 1,037 all-purpose yards last season and is a threat as a wideout (72 receptions, 688 yards, 3 TDs) and in the backfield (35 carries, 175 yards, 1 TD) … The defense is paced by three All-Big East First Team selections from last year in LB J.T. Thomas (76 tackles, 2 INTs), CB Brandon Hogan (74 tackles, 11 pass breakups), and S Robert Sands (65 tackles, 5 INTs).

Coastal Carolina has sponsored varsity intercollegiate football since 2003, but the Chanticleers have amassed a 50-29 all-time record, which includes an appearance in the NCAA Championship Subdivision playoffs in 2006 … Coastal Carolina was 5-6 overall and 3-3 in the Big South last season … The ledger included two losses to Bowl Subdivision opponents (18-0 to Kent State and 49-3 to Clemson) … QB Zach MacDowall started eight games last season and threw for 1,664 yards and nine touchdowns with 11 interceptions … RB Eric O'Neal (89 carries, 377 yards, 2 TDs) is the top returning rusher … The defense returns nine starters, including LB Desmond Steward (60 tackles) and FCS All-America Third Team CB Josh Norman (8 INTs) … Coastal Carolina's unique nickname — the Chanticleers — came about when the school was part of the University of South Carolina system and refers to a rooster who rules the barnyard with cunning and wit.


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