It's easy, and often justified, to take shots at the Big East as a football conference. The last two seasons have certainly justified it. Still, the conference's struggles don't justify simply assuming that Big East teams will lose just about every game they play. Nevertheless, this is what we see. In today's first edition of the "Forde Yard Dash" from ESPN personality Pat Forde, his make two predictions for Big East games that kickoff the college football season Thursday night.
The Big East (37) will have at least two bad losses. The schedule is set up for opening success: seven of the eight teams at home, and all seven of those are favored. But Syracuse will be taken down by visiting Wake Forest, and Louisville will be stunned by Murray State. The Orange and the Cardinals are both positioned to backslide a bit after significant improvements last season and look vulnerable in their openers.
Syracuse was fortunate in 2010 (few injuries, 4-0 in games decided by seven points or less) and has six new defensive starters who combined to do very little in 2010. They will be facing Jim Grobe's most experienced Wake team in several years. Louisville is frightfully inexperienced at cornerback (not a single corner on the depth chart has made a D-I interception) and will be facing a veteran, aerial-centric Murray State team that threw for 314 yards and scored 36 points per game last season.
Yes, Syracuse has six new starters on defense, but returns a pair of talented defensive linemen in Mikhail Marinovich and Chandler Jones, linebacker Marquis Spruill, and both safeties Phillip and Shamarko Thomas. The Orange return Ryan Nassib at quarterback, four offensive line starters, and two of the team's top three receivers on offense as well. Yes, Wake Forest is experienced, but is the experience any good? Enough to win a road game against a team coming off of a bowl win? Of the two predictions, this one is puzzling, but within the realm of possibility.
The second prediction, however, is foolishness through and through. Yes, Louisville has inexperienced cornerbacks. Yes, Murray State threw for 314 yards per game last year. But, Pat, against whom did Murray State throw for all of those yards? Tennessee Tech? Eastern Illinois? UT-Martin? How are Murray State's numbers against FCS or Division II schools any indicator of how Louisville will perform against them? Forde also doesn't mention that Murray State returns only one of its top four wide receivers from a year ago. In the one game the Racers played against an FBS opponent in 2010, Kent State beat them 41-10, sacked the quarterback five times, and held them to -65 yards rushing. Oh, and Louisville get to play offense in this game, too, right?
If national pundits are going to pick Big East teams to lose games like this, the Big East has a long way to go in earning the respect of those pundits. If the Big East actually loses games like these, it's going to be a long year on Big East Coast Bias.