Big East Power Rankings: Week 1

As the 2012 season is set to kick off Thursday, it’s that time of year for every football writer in the country: Power Rankings season.

We love to write them, you love to read them.

I’ll be releasing Big East Power Rankings every week during the season. Without further ado, the Big East Power Rankings for Week 1.

1. Louisville Cardinals: The Big East favorite for a reason. Charlie Strong has this team poised for a big year. Keep an eye on Teddy Bridgewater as a long shot Heisman candidate in 2012. He doesn’t have the national recognition yet, but he has the size, speed and ability to put up outstanding numbers. We’ll see how they handle expectations off the bat.
Next game: Sun. vs. Kentucky

2. South Florida Bulls: While the consistency and big play ability of quarterback B.J. Daniels is paramount to success for Skip Holtz and the Bulls, keep an eye on the defense in 2012. Led by new defensive coordinator Chris Cosh, the South Florida defense needs to become a better unit. They should be able to warm up this weekend before facing big time offenses and playmakers in weeks to come.
Next game: Sat. vs. Chattanooga

3. Rutgers Scarlet Knights: The defense, led by defensive end Darius Hamilton, can be dominant. If the offense can support them–welcome to the big time, Gary Nova–then we are looking at dark horse Big East champion. The transition from Greg Schiano to Kyle Flood has been seamless so far. Unlike past seasons, there isn’t big-time hype around the team. Flying under the radar just might work in Piscataway.
Next game: Sat. at Tulane

4. Pittsburgh Panthers: While Panthers fans await the return of stud back Ray Graham, the offense must rely on making plays on the outside. The depth at RB is good enough to keep the ground game going. Now we’ll see how much improvement Pitt will have from the quarterback position in 2012. If Paul Chryst can tutor Tino Sunseri into more than a serviceable signal caller, the Panthers could surprise early.
Next game: Sat. vs. Youngstown St.

5. Cincinnati Bearcats: While another 10-win season seems lofty considering the pieces lost in the offseason, don’t sleep on the Bearcats surprising in the Big East. The coaching staff is intact, meaning the system should make up for some of the loss in talent. One number to watch: Turnover differential. Cincinnati dominated in this department last year, en route to a +12 margin, ninth best in the country. Was that luck? Experience? Coaching? In reality, it was a combination of all three. With so many new faces, that stat could be a deciding factor in their 2012 success.
Next game: Thurs. Sept. 6th vs Pittsburgh

6. Syracuse Orange: Doug Marrone brought his team to boot camp training for a week in order to build unity and toughness. Considering the preseason prognostications for his program, they are going to need to stick together. While playmakers are few and far between in the Carrier Dome these days, look out for freshman Ashton Broyld. His ability to line up all over the field will give opposing defensive coordinators headaches on a weekly basis.
Next game: Sat. vs. Northwestern

7. Connecticut Huskies: The defense should keep them in games, but offense is a huge concern heading into the season for the Huskies. If Chandler Whitmer can provide a spark, UConn will surprise in the Big East. If he struggles to hold onto the starting job, the defense will be worn out quickly.
Next game: Thurs. vs. UMass

8. Temple Owls: Considering Temple is just arriving back in the Big East, expectations are being held low. Yet, there’s a feeling here that Temple might outperform this spot and not be the worst team in the league. Steve Addazio is an excellent coach who will have his players up for the challenge, but can they hold up over a full season against bigger and better competition?
Next game: Fri. vs. Villanova

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Joe Giglio is the ACC and Big East football writer for Rant Sports. You can follow him on Twitter or check out his Facebook page.

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