West Virginia Selected To Win 2007 Big East Title
Big East Conference Press Release
July 17, 2007
NEWPORT, R.I. - The West Virginia Mountaineers have been selected to win the 2007 BIG EAST Conference football title in a preseason poll of media representatives who cover the league teams on a regular basis.
West Virginia received 20 of a possible 24 first-place votes in the preseason poll. Last season, the Mountaineers - under the guidance of head coach Rich Rodriguez - posted an 11-2 overall record and a 5-2 mark in BIG EAST play. WVU defeated Georgia Tech 38-35 in the Gator Bowl and finished the season ranked 10th in both the final Associated Press and USA Today Polls. The Mountaineers return 18 starters, including nine on offense. Among those returning are a pair of Heisman hopefuls - junior quarterback Patrick White and junior running back Steve Slaton.
Louisville was picked to finish second, receiving three first-place votes. In 2006, the Cardinals won their first BIG EAST title by finishing with a 6-1 league mark. The UofL earned the conference's automatic BCS bid and went to the FedEx Orange Bowl where the Cardinals defeated Wake Forest 24-13. Louisville registered a 12-1 overall record and finished sixth in the final Associated Press Poll and seventh in the final USA Today Poll. Steve Kragthorpe begins his first season as head coach in '07 and returns a talented corps of players led by senior quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate Brian Brohm.
Rutgers was selected to finish third in the league and received the other first-place vote. Coach Greg Schiano's Scarlet Knights won the program's first bowl game in '06 - a 37-10 victory over Kansas State in the Texas Bowl. RU finished 11-2 overall and 5-2 in league play. The Scarlet Knights finished 12th in both of the final national polls. In '07, Rutgers returns seven starters on offense and six more on defense. The Scarlet Knights possess one of the nation's top offensive threats in junior tailback Ray Rice - another Heisman hopeful in the BIG EAST.
USF was chosen to finish fourth in the conference. Head coach Jim Leavitt's Bulls went to their second consecutive bowl game last season. USF defeated East Carolina 24-7 in the inaugural PAPAJOHNS.COM Bowl for the school's first bowl win. The Bulls finished the '06 season 9-4 overall and 4-3 in league play. USF returns 19 starters this season, including 2006 BIG EAST Rookie of the Year Matt Grothe, who returns as the starter at quarterback.
Cincinnati was projected to finish fifth. The Bearcats defeated Western Michigan 27-24 to win the inaugural International Bowl last season. Cincinnati finished 8-5 overall and 4-3 in BIG EAST play. Brian Kelly enters his first full year at the helm of the Bearcats in '07. Kelly took over in December last season and coached Cincinnati to the bowl victory. The Bearcats have 15 returning starters this season, including seven on offense and eight on defense. Junior defensive tackle Terrill Byrd will anchor a strong defense.
Pittsburgh was tabbed sixth in the poll. Coach Dave Wannstedt's Panthers finished with a 6-6 overall record a season ago, including a 2-5 mark in conference play. Pitt will have eight starters returning on offense in '07, including several key playmakers - senior wide receiver Derek Kinder and junior tailback LaRod Stephens-Howling. Pittsburgh also brings back six starters on defense.
Connecticut was chosen to finish seventh in the conference. The Huskies were 4-8 overall in 2006, including 1-6 in league play. Head coach Randy Edsall returns talent on both sides of the football in '07, including eight starters on offense and six on defense. Sophomore tailback Donald Brown returns following a stellar rookie campaign a season ago.
Syracuse was picked to finish eighth in the league. The Orange added three more victories to the win column in 2006, under the tutelage of second-year head coach Greg Robinson. SU finished 4-8 overall, including a 1-6 mark in conference play. Syracuse brings back 12 starters this season. Last year's BIG EAST sack leader, defensive end Jameel McClain, returns for his senior campaign.
2007 BIG EAST FOOTBALL PRESEASON MEDIA POLL
||West Virginia (20)