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Aug. 4, 2006
By Adam Caparell
Adam is CSTV.com's football editor and national football writer.
Rich Rodriguez knows expectations can weigh heavily on a team. That's why he refuses to set team goals when the season begins.
"I've never been one to stand up and say these are our goals. We talk about one thing at the beginning of the year: We want to play as well as we can and take it one play at a time. The goal we talk about is winning the Big East Conference."
And that goal will be attained - again - this season. West Virginia has won a share of the league championship the last three seasons and there's no reason why things should be any different this year. The Mountaineers are the class of the Big East and could easily challenge for the national championship with super sophomores Pat White and Steve Slaton looking to pick up where they left off last season. The solid offensive line will be lead by center Dan Mozes, and the potent Mountaineers defense will have to replace talent lost in the secondary, but has the means to be one of the better units in the country again.
Coupled with an easy schedule,
Louisville will have as dynamic a duo in quarterback Brian Brohm and running back Michael Bush as anyone in the nation.
The two Heisman Trophy candidates will make the Cardinals the most potent offensive attack in the Big East. Bush combines his ridiculous size with surprising speed to make him one of the best backs in the nation. But how Brohm's surgically repaired knee responds - he has assured everyone it is 100 percent - will warrant close observation.
The Cardinals won't be able to replace Elvis Dumervil and his 20 sacks from last season, and have lost some size up front. But
Bobby Petrino has a new 10-year contract and the "Derby City Duo," but a much tougher schedule than
Year One of the Dave Wannstedt era didn't get off to the kind of start Pittsburgh had envisioned when they hired the former NFL coach.
Quarterback Tyler Palko, in his senior season, is more determined than ever to make the Panthers a winner. He has another year under offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh to fully grasp the offense, but his supporting cast will have to pick up their play - especially the running game, which finished 93rd in the nation last year.
The Panthers will face
The challenge for
Coach Greg Schiano led the Scarlet Knights to a 7-5 record and the program's first bowl game since 1978, and they very nearly beat Arizona State in the Insight Bowl.
But there's no reason why
Defense will be the biggest concern for
USF had a monumental year in 2005, earning the program's first bowl berth.
To get back tough, the Bulls will need to be more consistent offensively. The offense struggled down the stretch of the season to put points on the board and was shutout in the Meineke Car Care Bowl against
The defense will be the strength of the Bulls, especially the linebacking unit that returns a trio who combined for 264 tackles last season. The Bulls finished 2005 ranked 17th in total defense (sixth in passing defense) and return an athletic and experienced secondary.
But closing the year at
Who's the quarterback? That's the question coach Randy Edsall and the Huskies will enter training camp with and hope to have answered when the season begins at the end of the month.
Matt Bonislawski and D.J. Hernandez split time last year because of injury. Dennis Brown also saw time behind center and redshirt freshman Billy Cundiff is waiting on the sidelines. It all makes for one big jumbled competition for the right to start. Don't be surprised if the QB who starts the season opener is on the bench come October. Edsall has options.
The Huskies will look toward Terry Caulley to be the featured back with Cornell Brockington gone and provide some stability for the offense.
The Huskies will feature an experienced defensive unit that finished seventh in the nation in total defense last season. Led by tackle Rhema Fuller, the defense will be leaned upon heavily to keep the Huskies in their games.
Coach Mark Dantonio can commiserate with Randy Edsall, in that he too will be forced to deal with a tenuous quarterback situation.
It looks to be Dustin Grutza's job to lose. After an inconsistent year in 2005, Nick Davila and Craig Carey are both capable of taking the job from Grutza if he struggles.
Cincinnati featured a very young team last season, starting six freshmen during the year. But that means they return a more experienced squad, including a defense that returns the bulk of its roster. Safety Haruki Nakamura - who led
You know you've fallen on hard times when your best player is a punter. But that's no knock on Brendan Carney,
Greg Robinson, in his second season as coach, will need to improve on the
While improvement is expected, winning three games would be an achievement.
2006 Syracuse Schedule