The Pi-Rate Ratings

August 22, 2012

2012 Big East Conference Preview

The BCS survives for two more seasons.  Starting in 2014, there will be a four-team playoff to decide the national championship.  So, for two more seasons, the Big East champion will be assured of a BCS Bowl Game.  This league is not only the weakest of the BCS conferences, the initial PiRate Ratings reveal that the conference rates below the Independents for the first time.

 

The best program has left for the Big 12, and a former team that was kicked out of the league in 2004 was invited back.  In baseball equivalency, replacing West Virginia with Temple would be like the American League Central Division replacing the Chicago White Sox with the Houston Astros.

 

Syracuse and Pittsburgh leave for the ACC next year, and the Big East was forced to “jump the shark” and invite Boise State and San Diego State for 2013.  SMU, Houston, Central Florida, and Memphis will also join from Conference USA. 

 

Even though this league is down, it should be an interesting year.  There is no real clear-cut favorite.  The media and the PiRate Vintage Ratings agree that Louisville is the class of the league, while the regular PiRate Ratings believe South Florida begins the year at the top.

 

Media Poll

 

Big East

Votes

Rank

Team

1st Place

Total

1

Louisville

24

219

2

South Florida

4

176

3

Rutgers

0

155

4

Cincinnati

0

139

5

Pittsburgh

0

131

6

Connecticut

0

77

7

Syracuse

0

70

8

Temple

0

41

 

PiRate Ratings

Rank

Big East

PiRate

1

South Florida

108.0

2

Pittsburgh

107.1

3

Rutgers

106.5

4

Louisville

105.3

5

Connecticut

100.3

6

Cincinnati

100.2

7

Syracuse

96.5

8

Temple

88.0

 

Vintage Ratings

Rank

Big East

Vintage

1

Louisville

109

2

Pittsburgh

107

3

South Florida

106

4

Rutgers

104

5

Cincinnati

102

6

Connecticut

99

7

Syracuse

97

8

Temple

91

 

 

Team

Cincinnati Bearcats

               
Head Coach

Butch Jones

               
Colors

Red and Black

               
City

Cincinnati, OH

               
2011 Record              
Conference

5-2

Overall

10-3

               
PiRate Rating

100.2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

61

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

102

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

57

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

4-3

Overall

7-5

 

After suffering through a 4-8 season following the departure of Brian Kelly, Butch Jones pulled off a surprise 10-3 season in year two at the helm of the Bobcats.  UC took a hit on graduation day, and Jones will have to pull a rabbit out of his coaching hat to guide Cinti to another double-digit win season.

 

The first priority is finding a quarterback to replace Zach Collaros; the second priority is finding a replacement for back Isaiah Pead.  Collaros missed the last four regular season games, and the Bearcats split those games.  He returned for the Liberty Bowl game and led UC to a win.

 

Munchie Legaux took over when Collaros was hurt last year.  He proved to be a better runner than passer, and Jones will change the offensive philosophy to better utilize his skills.

 

George Winn and Jameel Poteat will see the bulk of the rushing attempts.  Winn is more of a power back, while Poteat has some speed.  Neither has proven he can replace Pead.

 

Top receivers Anthony McClung (49 rec. 683 yds. 6 TD) and Kenbrell Thompkins (44 rec. 536 yds. 2 TD) will give Legaux two talented targets.  Tight end Travis Kelce caught 13 passes in a reserve role, and he should see more passes come his way this year.

 

Three starters are missing from the offensive line, leaving returning guard Austen Bujnoch and tackle Sean Hooey as the only holdovers.  Tackle Eric Lefeld started over half the games last year, so this unit is not in dire straits.

 

Cinti averaged 33+ points per game last year, but the Bearcats will not match that number in 2012.  Expect the Bearcats to score about 22-26 points per game this year.  That should be enough to keep UC in line for a bowl, because the defense should be one of the best in the league.

 

The defensive line is as good as any in this league.  Ends Dan Giordano and Walter Stewart teamed up for 20 tackles for loss with 11 sacks.  Stewart proved to be tough in pass coverage, knocking away eight passes. 

 

Two starters return at linebacker, led by Maalik Bomar.  Nick Temple should be improved after starting as a freshman.

 

Three starters return to the secondary, while the new starter played in all 13 games.  Cornerbacks Deven Drane and Cameron Cheatham teamed up for 22 passes defended. 

 

The UC kicking game is in good shape with the return of kicker Tony Milano and punter Pat O’Donnell.

 

Cincinnati’s schedule includes two non-conference games against FCS schools (Delaware State and Fordham).  The Bearcats play Virginia Tech at a neutral site and face MAC members Toledo and Miami (O).  UC has a good chance to go 4-1 and should win at least three of these games.  While we don’t see the Bearcats going 5-2 in league play again, they could win four conference games. 

 

 

 

Team

Connecticut Huskies

               
Head Coach

Paul Pasqualoni

               
Colors

Navy and White

               
City

Storrs, Ct

               
2011 Record              
Conference

3-4

Overall

5-7

               
PiRate Rating

100.3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

60

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

99

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

68

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

3-4

Overall

6-6

 

Paul Pasqualoni inherited a tough position when he took the UConn job just after the Huskies won the Big East championship and played in the Fiesta Bowl.  UC practically duplicated their offensive yardage gained and yardage given up by the defense.  They scored two points per game less and gave up two points per game more, yet their record dropped from eight wins to five.

 

The Huskies have enough returning talent and an infusion of new talent, and Pasqualoni should have the team in contention for a bowl game this year.

 

UConn used three different quarterbacks last year, but it appears that a junior college transfer has beaten all three of them out for the starting job, forcing one of the three, Michael Nebrich, to transfer.  Chandler Whitmer passed for more than 3,000 yards with 25 touchdowns at Butler Community College in Kansas.

 

The receiving corps is solid, and combined with Whitmer’s passing, the UConn should surpass last year’s mark of 195 yards per game.  Ryan Griffin is one of the top tight ends in the league, and at 6-6, he is hard to miss.  Michael Smith returns after missing all of last year due to being academically ineligible, and he could be the top pass catcher on the team this year.

 

The one area where UConn did not measure up to their 2010 standard was at running back.  Lyle McCombs rushed for 1,151 yards and seven touchdowns, but that was 500 fewer yards than Jordan Todman had in 2010.  McCombs may average more per attempt this year, but he may not top last year’s yardage because there will be a greater emphasis on the passing game.

 

Expect the defense to improve enough to give the Huskies a decent chance at bowl eligibility.  A strong defensive line features two potential All-Big East ends.  Jesse Joseph and Trevardo Williams.  Williams finished second nationally with 12 ½ sacks.

 

The linebacker unit is almost as tough as the front line.  All three starters return, and the trio were the top three tacklers on the team.  Jory Johnson, Yawin Smallwood, and Sio Moore each recorded more than 80 tackles, teaming for 277 total.  Moore produced 6 ½ sacks and 16 tackles for loss, while intercepting three passes and knocking away six others.

 

If Cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson can return to his pre-injury form, the secondary should be in good shape.  Wreh-Wilson missed three games, but he averaged one pass defended per game.  Dwayne Gratz tied for the team lead with three interceptions, and he will start opposite Wreh-Wilson.

 

Connecticut opens with UMass, a former arch-rival from the old Yankee Conference.  Other non-conference games include North Carolina State, Maryland, Western Michigan, and Buffalo.  UConn should win at least three and maybe four of these games.  They should win three more in league play, so the Huskies will more than likely be bowl eligible this year.

 

 

Team

Louisville Cardinals

               
Head Coach

Charlie Strong

               
Colors

Red and Black

               
City

Louisville, KY

               
2011 Record              
Conference

5-2

Overall

7-6

               
PiRate Rating

105.3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

48

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

109

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

29

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

5-2

Overall

9-3

 

Charlie Strong’s days at Louisville could be numbered.  No, it isn’t due to lack of success; it’s due to loads of success.  Another big year at UL could send some big-time school after him with a vault full of money.

 

The Cardinals have finished 7-6 both years under Strong, but UL will top that number this season.  Strong is a defensive guru, and his 2012 edition will be his best yet.  His secondary returns three starters, all of whom could make one of the all-conference teams.  Safeties Hakeem Smith and Calvin Pryor combined for 17 defended passes and 127 tackles.  Cornerback Adrian Bushell earned 1st Team All-BE honors.

 

Middle linebacker Preston Brown registered 84 tackles last year, and he leads a unit that brings in three highly-rated true freshmen that could contribute immediately.

 

Three starters return up front, but UL rotates players in the line.  So, there are six players available with good experience.  The strong point in this unit is on the inside, where Jamaine Brooks, Roy Philon, and Brandon Dunn all played well at tackle. 

 

If the offense improves as much as we expect, the Cardinals are going to live up to their preseason hype.  UL scored less than 22 points per game last year, but prospects are looking brighter on this side of the ball.

 

Teddy Bridgewater ascended to the starting quarterback position as a true freshman last year.  He ended up completing 64.5% of his tosses for 2,100+ yards.  While he won’t remind Cardinal fans of Brian Brohm or Dave Ragone, he will top 2,500 passing yards this season.  If he can cut down on his interceptions, UL will be scoring a lot more this season.

 

The Cardinals lost their best receiver to a torn ACL.  Michaelee Harris will be missed, but his absence won’t doom the Cards.  Eli Rogers and Devante Parker will have to step up and catch more passes this year.  Parker is a threat to score any time he catches a pass.

 

Dominique Brown becomes the new starter at running back after he rushed for 533 yards as the top reserve last year.  Brown is a former quarterback, and he can be used in the wildcat formation.

 

The offensive line returns four starters with center Mario Benavides being the best of an outstanding unit.

 

The schedule sets UL up for a potential breakout season.  A Sunday opener against rival Kentucky at Papa John’s Stadium should be a win.  Missouri State in week two will be an easy win.  Game three is at home against North Carolina, and the winner of that game, and that should be one of the best games of that weekend.  A road trip to Florida International could be a trap game, but FIU upset the Cards last year, and UL will be primed for revenge.  UL then plays at Southern Miss before enjoying a week off and starting the conference schedule.  The key game is a home tilt against USF in mid-October, and the winner of that game should be in the driver’s seat in the Big East race.

 

 

Team

Pittsburgh Panthers

               
Head Coach

Paul Chryst

               
Colors

Blue and Gold

               
City

Pittsburgh, PA

               
2011 Record              
Conference

4-3

Overall

6-7

               
PiRate Rating

107.1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

40

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

107

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

36

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

4-3

Overall

7-5

 

The Panthers have their third head coach in three years, and that usually does not bode well.  Paul Chryst worked wonders as Wisconsin’s offensive coordinator, and he inherits an already formidable, albeit underachieving offense. 

 

Tino Sunseri struggled in former coach Todd Graham’s offense, and now he must learn the third different offense in three years.  Chryst’s pro-set offense should be more to his liking, and he should cut down on interceptions, while increasing yardage and touchdowns.

 

Devin Street, Mike Shanahan, and Cameron Sadler all return as starting receivers after they joined forces to grab 111 passes for 1,454 yards and seven touchdowns.  Tight end Hubie Graham added 28 catches for 325 yards and three scores, and in Chryst’s system, the tight end is usually the primary option on many pass plays.  Drew Carswell was the backup, and he could see the field more this season in two tight end formations.  Look for the two tight ends to catch at least 50 passes between them this year.

 

There is a question at running back this season.  When healthy, Ray Graham is the best running back in the league, but Graham cannot stay healthy.  He sustained a knee injury that prevented him from rushing for 1,000 yards last year.  As practice entered the third week, Graham was still being held out of live action and still had a noticeable limp, so he may not be ready to return in September.  Isaac Bennett will step in and start, and while Bennett is talented, he is not as good as a healthy Graham.

 

Center Ryan Turley and guard Chris Jacobson highlight a good but not great offensive line.  This area took a hit when expected starting tackle Juantez Hollins was suspended for the season.

 

Chryst brought along Wisconsin linebacker coach Dave Huxtable to be his defensive coordinator.  Huxtable was the DC at Central Florida for three years, and UCF had some stellar defenses.  That may not be the case at Heinz Field this season, as Pitt lost their top tackler, two big-time pass rushers, and one of their top ball hawks. 

 

If Pitt had to choose which one defensive lineman to return, it would be tackle Arnold Donald, the lone returning starter up front.  Donald finished second in the BE with 11 sacks, and he recorded another 11 QB hurries.  End T. J. Clemmings should emerge as a future star this season.

 

Will linebacker Todd Thomas is the lone starter returning to the second unit.  Thomas has been nursing an injury in August practice, so he may not be 100% by the first game.  The Panthers have many options, so depth will not be the problem.

 

There is quality talent and outstanding depth on the back line, and safety Jared Holley is one of the best defenders in the league.  Cornerback K’Waun Williams teamed with Holley last year to register 131 tackles, but the duo intercepted just one pass each.

 

The schedule provides some easy non-conference wins (Youngstown State, Gardner-Webb, Temple, and Bufalo) and some probable losses (Virginia Tech and Notre Dame).  We feel like the Panthers can win enough games to return to a bowl.

 

 

 

Team

Rutgers Scarlet Knights

               
Head Coach

Kyle Flood

               
Colors

Scarlet and White

               
City

New Brunswick, NJ

               
2011 Record              
Conference

4-3

Overall

9-4

               
PiRate Rating

106.5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

41

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

104

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

49

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

4-3

Overall

8-4

 

Greg Schiano turned down the chance to become the Miami Hurricanes’ head coach, and Rutgers’ fans took that as a show of loyalty by the New Jersey native.  It turned out that Schiano was just looking for a better job in the Sunshine State; he took the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ job.

 

Schiano took multiple RU assistants with him, but Kyle Flood was not one of them.  The offesnsive line coach is now the head coach.

 

Flood is a pro-set proponent, and Rutgers has tried that offense in recent years, but Schiano always went back to the spread.  It will be interesting to see if the Scarlet Knights can move the ball using just a pro-set.

 

Gary Nova has been named the starting quarterback after a tough competition with 2011 co-starter Chas Dodd.  Nova completed just 51% of his passes last year, and he threw an interception every 25 times he threw a pass.

 

If Nova, or eventually Dodd, can prove he can run an offense, then RU should move the ball and score a lot of points, because the rest of the attack side is in very good shape. 

 

The receiving corps must replace the league’s top pass catcher, but the returning talent is big and quick, so this will still be a huge asset.  RU has the best group of receivers in the league.  Quron Pratt caught 32 passes as a possession receiver.  He doesn’t have the size or speed of his compatriots, but he knows where to be and how to get open.  Brandon Coleman and Mark Harrison do have the size and speed to be big play specialists.  Coleman averaged a whopping 32.5 yards on his 17 receptions scoring six touchdowns.  Harrison averaged 19.6 yards on 14 receptions.  Jeremy Deering is so athletic, he could play both ways this year.  Watch out for multitalented Miles Shuler.  Tight end D.C. Jefferson will see more balls thrown his way in the new offense.

 

Jawan Jamison and Savon Huggins returns at running back.  Jamison led RU with 897 rushing yards. Huggins gained just 2.6 yards per attempt.  The RU running game churned out just 98 yards per game and averaged 2.8 yards per attempt, and without considerable improvement, the offense will bog down against the better defenses.

 

Three starters return to the offensive line, but the two lost starters were the best two blockers.  This is an area of concern.

 

There are few concerns on the defensive side of the ball, as the Knights have the best stop troops in the league, including one of the best trio of linebackers in all of college football.  Khaseem Greene ran away with the Big East tackle race, recording 141 (25 more than any other BE defender).  Greene recorded 14 tackles for loss.  Steve Beauharnais finished second with 77 tackles, and he made 16 for loss. He also picked off three passes as part of one of the best pass defenses in the nation. 

 

The back line of defense features two potential future NFL players.  Cornerback Logan Ryan led the league with 16 passes defended, three of which were interceptions.  Safety Duron Harmon picked off five passes.

 

The only possible question on this side of the ball is in the interior.  Justin Francis will be a hard player to replace, as the end led the team with 6 ½ sacks.  Tackle Scott Vallone has All-BE potential.  He made 8 ½ stops for loss and batted away two passes.

 

The Scarlet Knights will contend for the conference title if Nova can force defenses to drop an extra man into pass coverage, opening up running lanes.  In a wide-open race, the Knights’ defense is strong enough to hold off the better offenses.

 

Rutgers should go 4-1 out of league play with games against Tulane, Howard, Kent State, and Army plus a tough contest at Arkansas.  An early Thursday night game in Tampa against South Florida should be exciting, and the winner will be the early leader in the race.  RU finishes the season at Cincinnati, at Pitt, and at home against Louisville on Thursday, November 29.  No team appears dominant enough to run the table, so Rutgers has to be considered a legitimate contender.

 

 

Team

South Florida Bulls

               
Head Coach

Skip Holtz

               
Colors

Green and Gold

               
City

Tampa, FL

               
2011 Record              
Conference

1-6

Overall

5-7

               
PiRate Rating

108.0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

38

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

106

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

41

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

5-2

Overall

8-4

 

How does a last place team in the Big East end the season with a large statistical surplus?  That’s easy; they obviously run all over their non-conference competition.  USF upset Notre Dame to start the season, and then they slaughtered Ball State, FAMU, and UTEP by a combined 159-48 and outgaining the three 1839 to 745 (613-248 average).

 

Once conference play began, USF lost six of seven contests.  They blew Syracuse off the Carrier Dome field.  However, in their six conference losses, the Bulls actually outgained their conquerors by 10 yards.  They were -5 in turnover margin in those six losses, and that cannot totally explain how they finished in last place in the league after climbing into the top 20 for three weeks.

 

Coach Skip Holtz made a change on defense, after the Bulls blew five fourth quarter leads.  He brought in Kansas State defensive coordinator Chris Cosh to take over the defense in Tampa.

 

Cosh inherits an exceptional defensive line with room for more improvement.  Nose tackle Cory Grissom is agile for a 320-pound athlete.  He can penetrate the inside gaps and disrupt inside running plays.  End Ryne Giddins recorded 11 tackles for loss and earned 2nd team All-BE honors.  Texas transfer Devin Mims takes over at the other terminal spot, and he will shore up the loss of sack leader Claude Davis.

 

The three-man linebacker unit challenges Rutgers for conference supremacy.  Will linebacker DeDe Lattimore led USF with 94 tackles, seven sacks, and 13 total tackles for loss.  Sam Barrington switches from the strong-side to the middle, while Reshard Cliett moves into the starting lineup at the Sam.  Former starting Mike linebacker Mike Lanaris, who finished second on the team with 87 stops, has been dropped to the second team as of now. 

 

The secondary was the sore point last season.  USF was too generous against enemy quarterbacks.  Kayvon Webster is set at one cornerback spot after intercepting two passes and knocking away seven others.  The other cornerback spot won’t be decided until the eve of the first game, as George Baker and Kenneth Durdin are running neck and neck.

 

USF should improve somewhat on the defensive side of the ball, yielding about 20-21 points and 325 yards per game this year.  Those numbers will be good enough to be the key competition for Louisville, but only if the offense can be more consistent this year.

 

B. J. Daniels could prove to be the best quarterback in the league if he improves as much this year as he did last year.  Daniels completed 59% of his passes for 2,585 yards and 13 touchdowns and cut his interceptions from 13 in 2010 to seven last year.

 

The Bulls’ receiving corps is a close second to Rutgers in talent and depth.  All three starters from last year are back, but it is not a guarantee that the same three will still start this year.  Reserve Andre Davis appears to have moved up to the first team with an impressive spring and August work ethic.  Davis caught 22 passes as a true freshman last year.  Last year’s leading receiver, Sterling Griffin (43 rec. 530 yds), is listed as a co-starter with diminutive speedster Terrance Mitchell.  Chris Dunkley was supposed to be a sure superstar when he signed with Florida, but the 5-star talent has yet to live up to his press credentials.  He will be a 5-star reserve this season.

 

Marcus Shaw leads in the battle to replace Darrell Scott at running back.  In limited action last year, Shaw rushed for 38 yards on 20 attempts, after averaging close to nine yards per attempt in limited action the year before.

 

Darrell Williams improved significantly in the offseason, and Holtz has installed him as his starter at the all-important left tackle position.  He moved Mark Popek to left guard, and Daniels should feel comfortable in the pocket knowing his blind side is in ample hands.  This unit is loaded with talent, and the Bulls should move the ball at will on their lesser opponents and have some success against the stronger teams.

 

USF has an interesting schedule this season.  A “gimme” opener at home against FCS opponent Chattanooga precedes a tough road trip to Nevada.  The Bulls host Florida State and play at Miami.  Somehow, they have to play Ball State in Muncie.  They should win three of the five non-conference games, but the Miami game will not be as easy as it seems (Miami won 6-3 last year).

 

The key games come in before November.  The Bulls host Rutgers on September 13, just five days after playing Nevada in Reno.  They go to Louisville on October 20, but they get an extra week to prepare for the game, while Louisville plays at Pitt. 

 

We think 5-2 gets any team a piece of the conference title this year (as it has for the last two seasons), so USF figures to be one of the top contenders.

 

 

Team

Syracuse Orange

               
Head Coach

Doug Marrone

               
Colors

Orange

               
City

Syracuse, NY

               
2011 Record              
Conference

1-6

Overall

5-7

               
PiRate Rating

96.5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

73

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

97

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

73

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

3-4

Overall

5-7

 

Syracuse appeared to be on their way to a second consecutive bowl following a 5-2 start last year.  They had just demolished #11 West Virginia 49-23.  Then, the roof collapsed, and the Orange dropped their final five games by an average of 15 points per game.

 

Fourth year coach Doug Marrone saw his defense take a major step backward, giving up nine more points and 85 more yards per game in 2011 than it did in 2010.  We believe the defense underachieved and has enough talent to improve this season, just maybe not enough to lead SU back over .500.

 

Marrone has not been happy in August practices to date.  Ends Deon Goggins and Markus Pierce-Brewster have not improved the way he hoped.  Tackle Jay Bromley, the best interior lineman, has been nursing a sore ankle and will not be at 100% when the season begins.  No other tackle on the roster has been impressive.

 

The one bright spot on this side of the ball is the return of all three starting linebackers.  Dan Vaughn, Marquis Spruill, and Dyshawn Davis teamed for 177 tackles (25 ½ for losses).

 

There is talent in the secondary, but SU was too generous against the pass last year, finishing dead last in completion percentage allowed at 62.4%.  Shamarko Thomas is a decent strong safety against the run, but he only broke up one pass last year. 

 

The offense has almost as many unanswered questions as the defense, but quarterback is not an issue.  Ryan Nassib returns and could vie for top passing marks in the league.  He finished 2011 with 2,685 passing yards and 22 touchdowns, which is tops among returning BE quarterbacks.

 

A big concern is the health of receiver Alec Lemon, who led SU with 68 receptions and 834 yards.  Lemon is recovering from shoulder surgery, and he recently sustained an ankle injury.  If Lemon is not 100% healthy for the season opener, the ‘Cuse is going to be hurting.  Nobody else on this roster caught 20 passes last year.  Another receiver expected to become more important in the passing game is also nursing an injury.  Jarrod West has the potential to become a key cog, but he greatly underperformed as a freshman.

 

Marrone likes to control the clock with a strong running game, but he has been overly disappointed so far in August practices, because no running back has moved to the forefront.  There is a four-man logjam of mediocrity, and the top contenders have contracted “fumblitis.”  This does not bode well for Nassib, because his offensive line has some holes as the season begins.

 

Left tackle Justin Pugh may be a first team All-American lobster-eater (along with guard Zack Chabane), but he may miss the start of the season with an upper body injury.  Pugh was the top blocker on this team last year and a 1st Team All-BE player.

 

SU went 4-1 outside the league last year, but it will be hard to duplicate that mark in 2012.  An opening home game against Northwestern would be a tossup if SU were 100% healthy.  With all the injuries, NU figures to be the favorite.  The Orange next take on top-ranked Southern Cal at Metlife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ.  After a home game with Stony Brook, the Orange visit Minneapolis to take on Minnesota.  A mid-November trip to Missouri could leave the Orange at 1-4 outside of Big East play and probably no better than 2-3.  It adds up to another losing season at the Carrier Dome.

 

 

Team

Temple Owls

               
Head Coach

Steve Addazio

               
Colors

Cherry and White

               
City

Philadelphia

               
2011 Record              
Conference

5-3 (MAC)

Overall

9-4

               
PiRate Rating

88.0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

101

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

91

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

97

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

0-7

Overall

2-9

 

Eight years ago, the Big East Conference fired Temple.  They kicked them out of the league for not being competitive on the field or at the box office.  TU’s first season as an independent was its most forgettable ever.  The Owls went 0-11 with an average score of 10-45!  Al Golden came to Philly and slowly rebuilt the program.  During his last two seasons, TU finished 9-4 and 8-4.  Golden departed to Miami, and Steve Addazio took over last year.  The Owls continued to impress, going 9-4 including an impressive 22-point win over Wyoming.

 

With all the defections in the Big East, the conference turned to the team they banished and invited the Owls back to the league.  Unfortunately for the Owls, it comes at a time when they face their biggest rebuilding effort in six years.  Temple faces an almost assured 0-7 mark in league play.

 

It’s not often that this school produces a consensus star like Bernard Pierce.  Pierce led the MAC with 1,481 rushing yards and lapped the field with 27 touchdowns.  Unfortunately, he is now wearing a Baltimore Raven jersey, but Temple has another star back in its fold.  Former Boston College standout Montel Harris rushed for 3,735 yards in three seasons, before a knee injury and a dismissal led to him matriculating to TU.  He is not built like Pierce, but he has more tactical speed and excellent peripheral vision.  Harris could easily top 1,000 yards rushing if his knee is 100% healthy.  Matt Brown was the best reserve back in the MAC last year, rushing for 916 yards.  However, Brown is nowhere near as durable as Pierce or Harris.  A half-pint at 5-5 and 180 pounds, he will break down if he has to carry the ball more than 15 times per game.  The Owls rushing numbers will drop some from the 257 per game of last year, but Temple will still have a strong ground game.

 

Quarterback Chris Coyer started four games late in 2011 and proved to be an adept runner and passer.  Coyer rushed for 562 yards and completed 60% of his passes with a TD/Int ratio of 6/0.  He averaged 9.3 yards per pass attempt.  Normally, this type of performance would call for even better numbers this year, but instead of playing against Bowling Green, Ohio U, and Miami (O), he will be facing South Florida, Rutgers, and Louisville.  His numbers will not be as good—by a quite a bit.

 

Temple was not a passing juggernaut in the MAC, as the Owls gained just 127 air yards per game.  The top three receivers are gone, and one player expected to contribute to the passing game recently left the team.  Deon Miller is the leading returnee, but he caught just 18 passes for 253 yards.  Ryan Alderman starts at one wideout after catching just two passes last year.  C. J. Hammond finally cracks the starting lineup, but he has been injured for practically his entire collegiate career.  Ryan Alderman is the surprise here, as he jumped over multiple receivers to crack the starting lineup.  Jalen Fitzpatrick will be utilized as a utility player.  Overall, this is not a unit that will play at Big East standards (maybe near the bottom if TU were still in the MAC).

 

The offensive line is in the same boat with the receivers.  There just isn’t enough talent or depth to compete this year in a BCS conference, even the weakest one.  Tackle Martin Wallace is the only holdover from last year, and he will not be confused for Justin Pugh.

 

The TU defense shares rebuilding concerns with the offense.  The Owls gave up just 14 points and 312 yards per game last year, but because of an outstanding ability to control the clock, the defense was on the field for less than 64 scrimmage plays last year.  The top four tacklers are missing, and the Owls will face a much tougher slate of enemy offenses this year, so it isn’t long odds that TU could give up twice as many points per game this year.

 

Marcus Green is a decent talent at end, but he must replace Adrian Robinson who led the owls in sacks and tackles for loss.  John Youboty slides over from tackle to end, and he is more of a run-stopper than pass rusher.  Levi Brown is adequate as a nose tackle.

 

Freshman Nate Smith takes over at middle linebacker, flanked by Blake Caponegro and Ahkeem Smith, both of whom have starting experience.  Still, this is the weakest trio in the league.

 

The back line of defense has one possible all-conference player.  Safety Justin Gildea tied for the TU lead with three interceptions.  TU is weak at cornerback, and all the passing quarterbacks in this league will exploit that weakness. 

 

One place where the Owls are Big East caliber is the kicking game.  Brandon McManus is the top kicker in the league.  Last year, he was perfect in PATs and 16-22 in field goals, while he led the MAC at almost 46 yards per punt.

 

The season kicks off with the Mayor’s Cup game against FCS rival Villanova.  This is not a given win for the Owls.  A home game against Maryland gives them a chance for a 2-0 start.  Game three comes following an off week, and the Owls play in-state rival Penn State.  Normally, this would be a sure loss, but we all know that the Lions could be headed toward their worst season since WWII.  After another week off, the Owls play six conference games in a row before heading north to Army and finishing at home against Syracuse.  There are opportunities for wins, maybe as many as five, but more than likely, the Owls will get weaker as the season progresses due to a lack of quality depth.  Because of the late move to the Big East, Temple could only schedule 11 games this year.

 

Coming Friday, August 23: A look at the four FBS Independents.  Can Notre Dame finally return to a BCS Bowl for the first time in six year?  Can BYU get into the BCS at-large discussion?  What about Army and Navy?  Have defenses caught up with their 21st Century version of the wishbone?

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