Which teams win, surprise and disappoint in the Big 12, Big East?
Writers from around the Tribune Co. predict what will happen in the Big 12 and Big East during the upcoming college football season. Feel free to join the conversation with a comment of your own.
Chris Dufresne, Los Angeles Times
Big 12: WINS: Texas Coach Mack Brown says the Longhorns are building toward another national title run, but Oklahoma this year has the advantage of quarterback Landry Jones and last year’s 55-17 win. SURPRISES: West Virginia. Most teams would need time to adjust to a conference switch, but the Mountaineers should compete right away with one of Big 12’s best offenses. Geno Smith at quarterback is a plus for a league that lost Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III and Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden. DISAPPOINTS: Baylor. The Bears had a dream 10-win season in 2011 but RGIII is gone, while the defense returns most of the starters from a unit that allowed a school-record 6,350 yards.
Big East: WINS: Louisville was only 7-6 last year but won five of its last six Big East games and returns sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, one of the league’s bright young playmakers. The Cardinals’ manageable nonconference schedule leads into a watered-down Big East that lost defending champion West Virginia to the Big 12. It will be a surprise if Louisville fails to win 10 games. SURPRISES: Temple returns to the Big East after getting kicked out seven years ago for football incompetence. These night Owls, which finished 9-4 last year in the MAC, just might catch some teams sleeping: DISAPPOINTS: Syracuse and Pittsburgh are lame ducks playing out the string before leaving next year for the ACC. Road games should be a hoot as Big East fans clear their throats for the opposing squads.
Brian Hamilton, Chicago Tribune
We’ll resist temptation to over-think Landry Jones’ injuries and the state of the offensive line and pick Oklahoma to win the Big 12 with a stiff challenge from newcomer West Virginia.
Texas has quarterback issues with David Ash, but the Longhorns ride Malcolm Brown and hover near the top of the league. Meanwhile, Baylor misses Robert Griffin III more than imaginable, still can’t play defense and wallows near the bottom.
Louisville’s 18 returning starters should help it pace the Big East, especially with most of a staunch defense back for 2012 and QB Teddy Bridgewater also in the fold.
Rutgers has its question marks but also brings back a quality defense for first-year coach Kyle Flood to ride toward an upper-tier league finish. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, will struggle more than expected in an unfavorable schedule under first-year coach Paul Chryst.
Jeff Otterbein, Hartford Courant
Oklahoma wins the Big 12. West Virginia, with an experienced Geno Smith at QB, proves it can play in the conference after moving from the Big East, but TCU is more toward the middle of the pack in its first season in the league. RGIII is gone, so too is Baylor. Charlie Weis finds out Kansas is a tough place to win in football but his presence should boost the team.
In the Big East, Cincinnati will win the league title. A lot of the Bearcats’ season rides on QB Munchie Legaux, but we figure he can take the bite out of his opponents. If not, Louisville will. Temple disappoints in its return to the league. This is not the MAC, where the Owls were 9-4 last season, and they have only 10 starters back. Tough way to begin. And tough way to leave: Pitt won’t do much. UConn surprises some, if you think the Huskies are a below-.500 team. They will return to a bowl game.
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