Maybe Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech were on to something. When those teams bolted the Big East it made waves and now Pittsburgh and Syracuse will follow next season by leaving the Big East. The conference has had to scramble to keep its AQ status with West Virginia bolting this year. Temple was roped in to make it 8 teams for 2012 and a slew of new schools will join in 2013, the most absurd of which are Boise State and San Diego State. It is the Big EAST after all. You have to believe Boise will bolt if it gets a better offer. All the realignment will cast a pall over this season which will be mostly transitional before the new teams arrive.

More Previews: Big 12, ACC

1) Louisville
Last year’s share of the Big East title was a big step for a program that looks to be trending upward. QB Teddy Bridgewater is an emerging talent and will continue to grow with a set of fellow sophomore WRs. The competition at running back should provide another dimension ot the offense, while C Mario Benavides provides stability in the middle of the O-line. The defense has carried the team the past few years and looks to continue that trend. The front seven has many talents that should put up impressive numbers. The secondary will be the area to watch as there are veterans mixed in with rising stars.

2) South Florida
The Bulls hope 2012 is more like the start of 2011 then the end. Much of that rests with QB BJ Daniels who has yet to take that next step. The depth at WR will certainly help him as it goes 5 deep. The run game will be helped if the O-line can stay healthy. The defense will be fast and very physical in their play. The strength is the LBs led by DeDe Lattimore. DEs Ryne Giddins and Julius Forte are aggressive pass rushers on the D-line and while the secondary has to replace some starters, there is big potential there. Those two position groups have produced some top NFL talent in recent years.

3) Rutgers
The Greg Schiano era is over and the Kyle Flood one begins. When the star of the offense is OT Kaleb Johnson, there has to be issues. Either Gary Nova or Chas Dodd must take the reins at QB for the offense to click. There is also a battle at RB between Savon Huggins and Jawan Jamison. At least there more certainty at WR, though they must fill the void left by Mohammed Sanu. The defense is what has Rutgers in the mix. If LB Khaseem Greene can come back from an injury he can be special. There is talent at every level and makes the Scarlet Knights a contender.

4) Pittsburgh
Pitt’s swan song in the Big East is a season of more transitions due to new coach Payl Chryst, who wants to get the program back to its ground pounding roots. RB Ray Graham is perfect for that, if his knee holds up. QB Tino Sunseri has been inconsistent at best and an uncertain O-line should do him no favors. WR Devin Street could breakout even with the emphasis on running. The defense is moving back to the 4-3 and should have some issues adjusting. DT Aaron Donald is the only returning starter on the front seven, but the secondary is stacked with talent, S Jarred Holley being the best among them.

5) Cincinnati
Usually a model of consistency, the Bearcats will have a tough time this season due to losing a ton of talent. QB Zach Collaros and RB Isaiah Peed are the biggest losses on offense and they are no clear successors yet. The O-line also lost some stars, but WR Anthony McClung returns to be the biggest offensive weapon. The defense was not immune to departures as well as they must replace top talent at DT and MLB. DE Walter Stewart could be better this year even without the talent around him.

6) Syracuse
2011 was a step back after a breakout 2010 and things don’t look ot get much better. QB Ryan Nassib is a steady veteran with some decent receiving options, but there are big holes in the running game and along the offensive line. The defense also has it owns set of problems. Marquis Spruill and Dan Vaughan lead an underrated linebacker group that had better be good since the other groups have major issues. S Shamarko Thomas is the lone bright spot outside of the LBs.

7) Connecticut
So much for the big debut of coach Paul Pasqualoni, as he led the defending Big East champs to a losing record and there’s still work to do for this season. The offense was horrible and there’s no clear-cut option at QB and not much talent at the skill positions. The defense has a majority of the team’s best players with DE Trevardo Williams, LB Sio Moore and CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson chief among them. The D will have some heavy lifting to do with the shortcomings on offense.

8) Temple
The Owls return to the Big East and will find it a tough first season. QB Chris Coyer is an emerging talent and RB Matt Brown has a chance to shine now that Bernard Pierce has left. However, there is not much at WR and the O-line must replace 4 starters. The defense lost a few starters and if that wasn;t bad enough they know face better offenses. The front line is thin, but there is talent in the back two levels with LB Ahkeem Smith and S Justin Gildea among them.