2011 Big East Football Predictions and Futures Odds
by Robert Ferringo - 8/3/2011
The Big East is the best conference in college football. And not only is it the best, but it has been the best over the course of the last decade.
Granted, they are also the nation’s smallest conference. This year, once again, they don’t have any true 2011 national title contenders. They don’t even come close to the championship bling of the SEC. They can’t match the reverential hype of the Big Ten. And none of the Big East teams put up the awe-inspiring offensive numbers of the Big 12. But over the past decade the present crop of Big East teams have excelled in one area beyond all others:
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The Big East teams make money. Lots of it.
The Big East has been the most profitable conference in college football betting over the course of the last decade. The current eight teams have combined to go 242-152-4 against the spread in nonconference play during that span. That is an astounding 61.4 percent success rate over a 10-year period. And the return on investment for the teams in the Big East dwarfs anything produced by the mighty SEC (235-221-6, 51.5 percent) or the mighty Big Ten (236-240-6, 49.6 percent) during that time.
If you know anything about how to bet on college football, then you know this: to be successful you need to find the most underrated teams in the country and ride them until the wheels fall off. Well, this year’s Beast looks again to be full of underappreciated, overlooked coaches, quarterbacks, defenses and home fields. No, they won’t dominate the national scene. But the Big East is an ATM machine for college football bettors and they will once again reprise their role as the nation’s most underrated league.
Here is a look at my 2011 Big Eastfootball predictions and futures odds, with the college football odds courtesy of Bodog:
The Favorite: West Virginia (+200)
It has been a debacle in Morgantown this offseason, with the drama between ex-coach Bill “Wow, Am I Overmatched” Stewart and Dana “Score/Drink At Will” Holgorsen taking center stage. Stewart is out and Holgorsen is making the jump from offensive coordinator to head coach. One thing is for certain: Holgorsen’s offenses are generally unstoppable. And with eight returning offensive starters, including a veteran quarterback and an excellent offensive line, WVU should be able to ring the register with numbers not seen since Rich Rodriguez split town. But the questions are all on defense, where just four of their top 12 tacklers return. They do get Pitt at home this year but WVU has to travel to Cincinnati and South Florida this season, so the tumult might not be over just yet.
The Challenger: Pittsburgh (+350)
It looks like Pittsburgh tried to top rival West Virginia for coaching craziness this offseason. The Panthers finally cut the cord with Dopey Dave Wannstedt. But the Mike Haywood regime lasted all of 16 days, and that opened the door for former Tulsa front man Todd Graham. Graham brings two entirely new systems to Pitt, and how quickly his team picks them up will go a long way in determining how things shake out for the Panthers. Pittsburgh has to replace its two best offensive players. But they have by far the best defense in the league and they have an underrated quarterback. If you look at the Pittsburgh Panthers college football schedule you’ll notice that it features a brutal nonconference slate. But you’ll also notice that, outside of a trip to Morgantown, the Panthers have a red carpet league schedule.
The Dark Horse: Cincinnati (+700)
Last season was a hangover year for the Bearcats. After ruling the Big East roost for three years, compiling a 33-7 mark from 2007-2009, the Bearcats slid to 4-8 last year in the wake of Brian Kelly’s (and a host of talented starters’) departure. But the Bearcats are in decent shape this year with 10 defensive starters (and 17 of 18 top tacklers) back, as well as an offense led by seven senior starters. Cincinnati has two very tricky road games – at USF and at Pitt – but they get a pair of bye weeks prior to big league games (including the Pitt game). Also, the Big East favorites are both going through a coaching change, and last year’s Bearcats showed everyone how much fun that can be.
The X-Factor: Syracuse (+1500)
Syracuse definitely doesn’t have the juice to compete for the Big East Championship this year. But they are a bit of an unknown this season. Their offense should improve and Doug Marrone has proven that he can get the most out of his defense. As long as his players stop getting stabbed and racking up felonies (or does that make them more “legit”), then Syracuse is headed in the right direction. They aren’t there yet. But a look at the Syracuse football schedule shows that they get West Virginia, South Florida and Cincinnati in the Dome. Further, the WVU and Cincinnati games come after bye weeks and SU’s trip to Pitt comes the week after the Panthers play in the Backyard Brawl. Again, this team doesn’t have a chance of winning the Big East crown, but they could go a long way in deciding who does.
The Disappointment: South Florida (+250)
A lot of college football handicappers, oddsmakers, and media bobbleheads seem to be jumping on the South Florida bandwagon. Not I. The Bulls have been perennial underachievers over the course of the last decade. And anyone that bets college football knows that you don’t want to be the last one jumping on a team’s bandwagon. USF only has 11 starters back and their league schedule features only three home games. Also, two of USF’s winnable road games (at Rutgers, at SU) could be tricky because of weather and a potential look-ahead spot prior to a regional clash with Miami. I’m not a big fan of B.J. Daniels and the Bulls haven’t had a winning Big East season since 2007. I just don’t see how these odds reflect USF’s true potential.
Louisville (+1000) – It looks like Louisville is headed for its fifth straight rebuilding season. Coach Charlie Strong did yeoman’s work last year, guiding this squad to an unanticipated 7-6 record. But they lost both of their starting quarterbacks (who combined for 21 TDs and 7 INTs) and they likely will be rolling with a freshman under center this year. They do have seven starters back on defense and that is Strong’s forte. But if this team can’t score they won’t gain any traction.
Rutgers (+2000) –Wasn’t it just yesterday that Greg Schiano was being lauded as one of college football’s top up-and-coming coaches and the leader of a program fresh off a $100 million stadium remodel? Now Rutgers is back to being, well, Rutgers. They are coming off a four-win season and their quarterback is named Chas. The Scarlet Knights are an afterthought in the league after going 4-10 in the Big East the last two seasons. But they play only four road games ALL SEASON, and if this team gets hot they could replace Syracuse as this year’s X-Factor. Keep an eye on this group.
Connecticut (+2200) –Welcome back, Paul Pasqualoni. The former Syracuse head coach was run out of Central New York despite a career mark of 107-59-1. He inherits 16 returning starters (most in the league) from the defending Big East champions. Connecticut has been a big-time overachiever for the past four years. But the bottom line is that they find ways to win. The Huskies have 10 three-year starters and they should start the season 5-0 overall. They also close the year with four of six home games, so there is hope here. But it all rests on UConn’s brand new coach and brand new quarterback (freshman Mike Nebrich).
2011 Big East Conference Predictions: Predicted Order of Finish
2. West Virginia
4. South Florida
Robert Ferringo is an NFL and college football handicapper and is coming off an exceptionally profitable 2010-11 football season (college and pro). Over the last year his clients have more than tripled their bankrolls with his predictions in all sports. He is looking forward to building on his stellar football handicapping resume again this fall and you can check him out here.
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