Pitt was picked to win the Big East football title in a preseason poll of media members who cover the conference's eight teams.... I was confused. They are talking about Pitt, right? The same Pitt team that lost just about everybody from the skill positions and will be fielding a quasi-offense built around Bill Stull? I hadn't thought too much about the pecking order at the top of the Big East, but Pitt being named the favorite was a bit of a surprise.
And then I looked at the rest of the conference.
* West Virginia? Eh, maybe. I don't think Bill Stewart was a good hire at all, but maybe Noel Devine will have a breakout year and Jarrett Brown will be able to fill Pat White's ginormous shoes (figuratively speaking).
* Cincinnati? The defending champs have to be in the discussion, especially with the still absurdly underrated Brian Kelly at the helm. But I'm not sure the offense can get significantly better, and that's the only way to compensate for a defense that loses 10 of 11 starters.
* South Florida? George Selvie is a freak of nature and Matt Grothe is pretty fun to watch, but the rest of the team just isn't inspiring.
* Rutgers is kind of in the same boat as Pitt as far as lost talent at the skill positions (except with less talent to begin with), and after that you've got UConn (decent but not a contender), Louisville (mediocre at best) and Syracuse (terrible).
I guess the media voters are counting on Pitt's defense to be the difference, which is entirely possible. The defensive line (Greg Romeus, Jabaal Sheard, Mick Williams, etc.) should be very good, and there will be enough 20-14 games in conference play that maybe that'll be enough. I have a feeling, though, that this year's Big East will look a lot like last year's ACC: Half the teams will finish with a conference record of 4-3 and some random tiebreaker will determine the sacrificial lamb to the BCS.
Come to think of it, with all due respect to some of the recent ACC champions, this year's Big East winner (no matter who it is) might be the worst BCS team ever -- and that's saying something.