News With Commentary by HC Staff

Friday, July 28, 2000
by Will Stewart, HokieCentral.com

Canes Picked 1st, Hokies 2nd

Running true to form, the Big East media tabbed the Miami Hurricanes as their pick to win the Big East this year. The poll was unveiled during yesterday's Big East Media Day at the Meadowlands in New Jersey (click here for the Big East press release).

This isn't surprising, but once you get beyond the Canes #1 ranking, there are some surprises, or at least, some things of interest. But first, here are the results of the voting, with the total number of points, and the number of first place votes in parentheses:

Big East Media Preseason Poll

Rank

Team

Points

1

Miami

183 (15)

2

VT

177 (9)

3

Syracuse

134

4

Boston College

109

5

Pittsburgh

100

6

WVU

85

7

Temple

48

8

Rutgers

28

To be honest, it surprises me that the Hokies got that many first place votes and finished that closely behind the Canes. If a mere 3 out of the 24 people who voted switch their first-place votes, it's a tie.

Given that the Hokies' winning streak against the Canes can't go on forever, and given that the Tech/Miami clash is in the Orange Bowl this year, and given that the Hokies suffered major losses on defense and special teams, it's a testament to the respect that Frank Beamer and his staff have earned around the league for the Hokies to be voted such a close second.

Not to mention that that Michael Vick guy may have skewed the voting a bit.

There are two other items of note in those rankings:

  1. WVU at #6
  2. Syracuse at #3

First, the Mountaineers. WVU finished a miserable 4-7 last year, with their low point probably being a 31-28 loss to Navy at home. Or maybe it was the 33-0 road loss to Maryland. Or maybe the 30-7 road loss to Syracuse. Whatever it was, these are not happy days in Morgantown.

WVU's big problem, and the reason I think so many people are picking them to do poorly this year, is that they lost 8 starters off of a defense that was ranked 98th in the country last year. But on the up side, they return four starting offensive linemen, plus the Big East's leading rusher last year in Avon Cobourne.

And their home Big East slate includes Boston College, Miami, and Syracuse. The BC and Syracuse games could be the swing games for the Mountaineers in the Big East race. If they can win on the road against Temple and Rutgers, and pull off a victory against BC and/or Syracuse at home, they'll finish higher in the Big East than 6th, that's for sure.

There's no doubt that this year is a critical year for Don Nehlen and the WVU faithful. If he tanks another year, it could get loud and messy in Morgantown. But I don't think it's going to happen. Like George Welsh and Frank Beamer, Nehlen is a coach who doesn't stink up the joint for more than one year at a time. So we'll see.

As for Syracuse, I think people are giving them too much credit. This is probably because the Orangemen return 7 starters from a defense that finished 14th in the country last year. But the offense is looking anemic, with just one starting offensive lineman returning from last year's squad, and a revolving door at quarterback.

Syracuse will lose to both Virginia Tech and Miami at home -- yes, the jinx of the Jiffy Pop Dome will finally be broken by the Hokies -- and they'll drop a game at Boston College or West Virginia, or both. The Syracuse defense may be good, but they're historically not well-conditioned, and I think that will cost them at least one league game on the road.

And the Orangemen better be careful in their October 7th home game against Pittsburgh.

So I'm not only surprised that Syracuse was picked third in the league, I'm surprised it was by such a wide margin. I don't see it.

So, what's my ranking of the Big East teams? Funny you should ask, because here it is:

HokieCentral.com's Big East Preseason Predictions

Rank

Team

1

Miami

2

VT

3

Boston College

4

WVU

5

Syracuse

6

Pittsburgh

7

Temple

8

Rutgers

The picks of Miami, VT, Temple, and Rutgers are the safe picks. Where I diverge from mainstream thinking is in the middle of the pack. I'm picking BC to finish ahead of Syracuse, and WVU to finish ahead of Pittsburgh (and this actually matches The Sporting News's predictions, which is scary).

In order for the teams to finish where I've picked them, something similar to the following scenario must occur (for a great aid in tracking the following discussion, see HC's composite football schedules page):

  • BC must win a home game against Syracuse and a road game against WVU
  • WVU needs to knock off Syracuse at home and Pittsburgh on the road
  • Syracuse can't drop their home game against Pittsburgh
  • Pittsburgh needs to have a worse-than-expected season, losing to Syracuse, BC, and WVU.

This prediction is risky in that it is probably asking BC to go 3-0 against WVU, Pitt, and Syracuse. It is also asking a resurgent Pitt team, with its potent offense, to go 0-3 against WVU, Syracuse, and BC. Yes, those WVU and BC games are Pitt home games but at Three Rivers Stadium, where the home game advantage may just about be nil, especially against WVU.

If Pitt does have that bad of a season, I don't think it will be because the program is headed in the wrong direction. I think Walt Harris is a good coach, but I also think that his defense may just be a little too inexperienced. The Sporting News and Athlon have different depth charts on Pitt, but both publications show the Panthers without a single senior starter on defense, and a lot of freshman and sophomore starters.

So it's quite possible that the Panthers could pull yet another 2-5 record in the Big East, and then turn it right around and go 5-2 in the Big East next year. To be different, I'm predicting a 2-5 record in the Big East this year.

In the end, picking the top two (Miami and VT) and the bottom two (Rutgers and Temple) is easy. Placing the middle four teams is a crap shoot, and I'm going to give WVU and Boston College the benefit of the doubt. As they say on the message boards, "bookmark it."

          

TSL News and Notes Archives

TSL Home