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College Football Preview -- Big East

By United Press International   |   Aug. 17, 2002 at 5:42 PM   |   Comments

Big East Conference Preview

BOSTON COLLEGE

2001 record: 8-4 (Beat Georgia in Music City Bowl)

Coach: Tom O'Brien

Outlook: With RB William Green leaving early for the NFL, the focus of the offense falls on QB Brian St. Pierre, who threw for 25 touchdowns and over 2,000 yards last season. Green will be missed, but remember that the Eagles nearly upset Miami last year while Green served a suspension. Derrick Knight is the likely replacement. O'Brien has quietly built a program that has been to bowl games the last three seasons and won the last two. LB Vinny Ciurciu, who spent two seasons at Clemson, is back after leading the team with 87 tackles.

Noteworthy: The victory over Georgia in the Music City Bowl snapped a 21-game losing streak against ranked teams dating to 1995.

Schedule: Hopes for another bowl trip will hinge on a three-game mid-season road trip to Pittsburgh, Notre Dame and West Virginia.

MIAMI

2001 record: 12-0 (Beat Nebraska in Rose Bowl)

Coach: Larry Coker

Outlook: Coker became the first coach in 53 years to win a national title in his first season and has a good chance for another. His team was hit hard by graduation and early departures to the NFL, but plenty of talent remains. The unquestioned leader of the team is QB Ken Dorsey, who has won 26 times in 27 starts. The Hurricanes could be a bit thin at tailback due to a serious knee injury to TB Frank Gore and three starters were replaced in the offensive line. LB Jonathan Vilma emerged as a prime-time player with a bunch of jarring hits in the Rose Bowl against Nebraska. The Hurricanes lost their top five defensive backs and few of the newcomers stepped up in spring drills. Miami's 22-game winning streak is the longest in the nation.

Noteworthy: A Miami playbook was stolen from the office of linebackers coach Vernon Hargreaves during the spring and appeared briefly on the internet. Five Miami players have fathers who played in the NFL, including RB Jarrett Payton and TE Kellen Winslow. Eleven Hurricanes were taken in the April NFL draft.

Schedule: A brutal schedule could stand in the way of another national title. There are trips to Tennessee, Florida and Syracuse and home dates with Florida State and Virginia Tech.

PITTSBURGH

2001 record: 7-5 (Beat North Carolina State in Tangerine Bowl)

Coach: Walt Harris

Outlook: Pittsburgh was a huge disappointment after starting the season with five losses in six games, but Harris deserves credit for keeping things under control and winning the final six contests, including a bowl game. The Panthers not only lost star WR Antonio Bryant, but QB David Priestley as well. Rob Rutherford will have first crack at QB and will throw to a revamped group of receivers led by Lamar Slade. At least Rutherford will work behind an offensive line that has all five starters back. LB Gerald Hayes has more than 200 tackles over the last two seasons.

Noteworthy: The Panthers have been to three bowl games in five years under Harris, their best stretch since going to nine in a row from 1975 to 1983.

Schedule: The road games are not easy. Pittsburgh visits Syracuse, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech and Miami.

RUTGERS

2001 record: 2-9

Coach Greg Schiano

Outlook: Schiano learned very quickly that New Jersey is not Miami. His offense set a Big East record for fewest points and his defense allowed nearly 400 points. QB Ryan Cubit took his lumps starting every game as a freshman last season and Schiano has to hope that the investment will pay off. The offense could be a lot better with the presence of TB Clarence Pittman, who sat out last season with academic trouble. The Scarlet Knights have to hold on to the ball after leading the nation with 42 turnovers.

Noteworthy: Schiano convinced school officials to fund a Rutgers football billboard in Dade County in South Florida, and it helped land some recruits. James Gandolfini, a star of HBO series "The Sopranos" and a 1983 Rutgers graduate, has appeared in TV commericals promoting Scarlet Knights football.

Schedule: The wins better come early. The schedule gets tougher after the Scarlet Knights open with Villanova, Buffalo and Army. Tennessee and Miami are mid-season opponents.

SYRACUSE

2001 record: 10-3 (Beat Kansas State in Insight.Com Bowl)

Coach: Paul Pasqualoni

Outlook: Syracuse appeared to be in for a long year in 2001 after an 0-2 start, but its only loss the rest of the way was to national champion Miami. Keeping up the pace in 2002 will be difficult with just two returning starters on offense. One is QB R.J. Anderson, who also is Syracuse's top returning rusher. There will be more experience on defense, but All-America E Dwight Freeney will not be easily replaced. Senior P Mike Shafer has emerged as an important cog. He had four kicks inside the 20 in the bowl win over Kansa State.

Noteworthy: Syracuse has posted 15 straight winning seasons. Only Florida State, Michigan and Nebraska have longer current streaks.

Schedule: There are interesting home games at the beginning and end of the season. Brigham Young comes to the Carrier Dome on Aug. 29 and defending national champion Miami visits on Nov. 30.

TEMPLE

2001 Schedule: 4-7

Coach: Bobby Wallace

Outlook: Wallace will try something new this season, installing a spread offense that makes more use of the receivers. If the Owls are strong anywhere, it is at receiver where Sean Dillard caught 51 passes last season. QB Mike McGann started seven games as a true freshman and won the job with a strong spring. Jamal Wallace returns at safety, where he has started the last 22 games.

Noteworthy: The leader of the defense is Dan Klecko, the son of former NFL star Joe Klecko. Dan Klecko moves from tackle to end this season. Fearing a legal battle, the Big East will allow Temple to stay in the league through the 2004 season.

Schedule: Oregon State found its way on the schedule and visits on Thursday night, Sept. 5. Defending national champion Miami visits the following week.

VIRGINIA TECH

2001 Schedule: 8-4 (Lost to Florida State in Gator Bowl)

Coach: Frank Beamer

OUTLOOK: The Hokies could boast the best running tandem in the country in Lee Suggs, who missed nearly all of last season due to injury, and Kevin Jones, who rushes for 957 yards and was the Big East Rookie of the Year. There are questions at quarterback, where Grant Noel will try to play through an ACL injury suffered in the spring. Beamer will be tempted to use freshman Marcus Vick, Michael's brother. The Hokies took a hit at receiver while the defense lost its top five tacklers. Special teams remain a huge part of any team coached by Beamer. The Hokies blocked seven kicks last year, giving them 90 in his 15 seasons at Blacksburg.

Noteworthy: Michael Vick gave brother Marcus a Cadillac for his 18th birthday.

Schedule: A normally weak non-conference schedule has been upgraded with the school's first game with LSU. The Hokies also play Marshall in a nationally televised Thursday night game and visit Syracuse and Miami.

WEST VIRGINIA

2001 record: 3-8

Coach: Rich Rodriguez

Outlook: TB Avon Cobourne is not lacking confidence, and he backed it up with his third straight 1,000-yard season. His role will be even more important as Rodriguez tries to bring new QB Rasheed Marshall along slowly. Under new defensive coordinators Jeff Casteel and Todd Graham, the Mountaineers will switch from an eight-man front to one that has three linebackers and three down lineman. One of the keys to the unit will be DT David Upchurch, who had 66 tackles last season. West Virginia did lose its top three tacklers.

Noteworthy: The hard surface at Mountaineer Field will be replaced by Astro-Play, which resembles the more well-known FieldTurf and is more comfortable on the knees.

SCHEDULE: Three of the last four games are on the road, including a trip to Virginia Tech.

© 2002 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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