1. #1
    Chance Harper
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    Big East: West Virginia staggered, but not out of BCS picture

    West Virginia staggered, but not out of BCS picture

    Don't blame Mountaineers fans for being in a bad mood as the 2008 college football season draws nearer to its kickoff. West Virginia missed a golden opportunity to play for the BCS title last year with a loss in their regular season finale, and have had the whole Rich Rodriguez embarrassment to stew about all winter. Now the Mountaineers look to return to glory behind new head coach Bill Stewart.

    The black sheep of the BCS major conferences came within an eyelash of redemption last year. Then the West Virginia Mountaineers blew a title shot in the regular season finale. Now their coach is gone. What is the Big East to do?

    Not panicking would be a good start. Thereís still hope for the Mountaineers to win the BCS championship, and the Big East has some compelling longshot candidates up its sleeve who can beat the NCAAF betting odds this season. Letís give these eight teams a look-see; Over/Unders for wins are included.

    West Virginia Mountaineers (9.5)
    Bill Stewart gets to hit the ground running in his first season taking over for Rich Rodriguez as head coach. He has the support of his players, who upset Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. But WVU has lost a lot of talent aside from returning QB Pat White. I see 9-3 and a bowl loss on the horizon; I donít see the Mountaineers coming close to cashing in at 15-1 to win the whole shooting match.

    South Florida Bulls (9.0)
    Not to be outdone by West Virginia, USF reached the dreaded No. 2 last year before dropping three in a row. The Bulls have nonetheless won nine games each of the past two seasons and are arguably better now than ever. I like them as a 50-1 BCS title longshot.

    Rutgers Scarlet Knights (7.5)
    The schedule is a bit on the tough side with Fresno State in the opener, and RB Ray Rice will be missed. But Rutgers still has an awesome defense. Stud receivers Tiquan Underwood and Kenny Britt should deliver enough offense to get eight wins for the Knights. Just donít expect a title at 75-1 odds.

    Cincinnati Bearcats (7.0)
    The ĎCats cracked the Top 25 last year and hit No. 15 on the Fremeau efficiency charts. They should at least come close to their 10-3 record with a forgiving schedule, even without QB Ben Mauk getting one more year of eligibility. A possible very longshot for the title at 100-1.

    Connecticut Huskies (6.5)
    The Huskies outperformed expectations by going 9-4 (7-4 ATS) in 2007. They should come back down to earth this season. The UConn defense is good, but QB Tyler Lorenzen doesnít have anyone of note to pass the ball to. At 150-1 to win the title, you might as well buy a lottery ticket.

    Louisville Cardinals (6.5)
    Steve Kragthorpe is already on notice after failing to guide the Cards to a bowl game in his first year filling Bobby Petrinoís shoes. Heíll try to do better without QB Brian Brohm and many of his key offensive starters from 2007. The schedule is soft enough for seven wins, but this program is reeling. Stay away from them at 100-1 to win the BCS.

    Pittsburgh Panthers (6.5)
    Weíve been waiting for Pitt to finally have that breakthrough season under coach Dave Wannstedt. The talent is there, with a healthy combination of returning starters and a top recruiting class. Pitt has a tougher schedule, but is in a much stronger position than Louisville to win at least seven games and go bowling again. Forget about any BCS title hopes at 100-1.

    Syracuse Orange (2.5)
    This program has fallen flat under coach Greg Robinson, and his hopes for a job-saving bowl invite were dashed when WR Mike Williams was suspended. They should still beat Akron and Northeastern; the key for the Orange going over will be their Aug. 30 season opener at Northwestern. I donít see Syracuse winning that one after finishing No. 110 last year out of 119 Division I teams in efficiency.

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    EagesBets
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