Boston College: The Eagles are trying to finish above .500 for the third year in a row. The loss of QB Tim Hasslebeck will be difficult to replace. The toughest games for BC will come against Stanford in Palo Alto, at VA Tech, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, and Miami at home (in a 3-game stretch), and Syracuse on the road. There are at least 4 games on the schedule that BC should win, so if they can pull a couple upsets, a .500 record is very likely.
Miami: The Hurricanes felt they were left out of the national championship game in 2000, and are looking to get there for real in 2001. They have the talent to do just that, even with a new coach, Larry Coker, taking control. QB Ken Dorsey and FB Najeh Davenport will lead the Hurricane offense in 2001. Tough games at Penn State, vs Washington, at Pittsburgh, at Florida State, and at Virginia Tech could trip up the Canes, but I wouldn’t bet on it.
Pittsburgh: The Pitt Panthers will likely be the surprise team of the Big East and possibly the country in 2001. WR Antonio Bryant is for real (if he can stay out of trouble), and the Panthers have a fairly easy start to the schedule. Tough games will come at home vs UAB and Miami, at Notre Dame, and VA Tech at home. If the Panthers win the games they should and pull an upset or two, they could be a 9-win team. They are my pick for team the big boys better watch out for.
Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights will once again have a tough year in the Big East. A road game at Buffalo should get them off to a good start, though. Games against Miami in Florida, vs Cal, vs VA Tech, and vs Pitt will be tough to win. The Knights should beat Buffalo, Connecticut, and Navy. If they can win some toss-up games against such teams as Temple and WVa, they could make a run at a 6-win season. The road will be tough, though, for zcoach Greg Sciano, who replaces Terry Shea as the head man for Rutgers.
Syracuse: Some people say that Orangmen head coach Paul Pasqualoni is on the hot seat, but he’ll have a chance to prove himself worthy of the job from the very start of the season. Nationally ranked Georgia Tech travels to Syracuse to open both teams’ seasons on August 26. TB James Mungro will get most of the carries in 2001. He set a Big East single-season record with 6.9 yards-per-carry in 2000. Six starters return to the Big East’s #1 defensive unit, including two all-America candidates.
Temple: The Temple Owls are primed for possibly their biggest season in many years. An easy schedule with home games against Navy, Toledo, Connecticut, and Rutgers should give the Owls four fairly easy wins. A road game at Bowling Green could also be a W for Temple. The Owls also have Boston College, Syracuse, Miami, and WVa on the road, as well as Pittsburgh and VA Tech at home. With a schedule like this and 20 returning starters (10 on each side of the ball), the Owls should win at least 6 games in 2001.
Virginia Tech: After the loss of QB Michael Vick, the Hokies must remain at their current level on the national scene. RB Lee Suggs should give the always defensive-strong Hokies the offensive fire power to do just that. Suggs was named Big East Co-Offensive Player of the Year. Fifteen starters return from last year’s team (6 on offense, 9 on defense). The toughest games for VT in 2001 will come at Pitt, at VA, and at home against Miami. Easy wins should come against Connecticut, W. Michigan, Rutgers, and C. Florida.
West Virginia: Rich Rodriguez will replace legendary coach Don Nehlen in 2001. A win over Mississippi capped off Nehlen’s career at West Virginia. The Mountaineers finished at 7-5 in 2000, but I feel that they’ll struggle in 2000. Probable wins will come against Ohio, Kent State, and Rutgers. Games at Boston College, vs VA Tech, at Notre Dame, at Miami, and vs Pitt will likely give the Mountaineers problems in 2001. If WVa can reach the .500 mark in 2001, it will be a good year for first year coach Rodriguez.