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Big East predictions


© St. Petersburg Times, published August 25, 2000

Listed in predicted order of finish.

Virginia Tech

COACH: Frank Beamer, 14th season (87-60-2; 129-83-4, 19 seasons).

1999 RECORD: 11-1, 7-0 Big East (lost to Florida State 46-29 in Sugar Bowl).

KEY RETURNEES: QB Michael Vick (1,840 passing yards, 12 touchdowns), WR Andre Davis (962 receiving yards).

KEY LOSSES: K Shayne Graham, P Jimmy Kibble, DE Corey Moore, DL John Engelberger.

NOTES: The Hokies enter the season ranked No. 11 and are led by preseason Heisman candidate Michael Vick. The sophomore quarterback threw for 12 touchdowns last year and rushed for another eight. Virginia Tech burst onto the scene last season, appearing in the national championship game, but will be missing eight starters from that team. This season's success will come down to how well Vick performs and whether RB Andre Kendrick will make an impact while replacing Shyrone Stith and his 1,119 rushing yards.


COACH: Butch Davis, sixth season (40-19).

1999 RECORD: 9-4, 6-1 Big East (beat Georgia Tech 28-13 in Gator Bowl).

KEY RETURNEES: WR Santana Moss (54 catches, 899 yards, 6 TD), WR Reggie Wayne (40 catches), RB Clinton Portis (83.8 yards per game), RB James Jackson (second team all-conference).

KEY LOSSES: QB Kenny Kelly, LB Nate Webster, TE Bubba Franks.

NOTES: Miami returns 14 starters to a team that enters the season ranked fifth. In typical Miami fashion, look for the offense to lead the way with what could be the best receiving corps in the nation and one of the most potent running back squads around. Three of the Hurricanes defensive backs were named all-conference and LB Dan Morgan is a Butkus Award candidate. Look for the Nov. 4 game against Virginia Tech to decide the Big East championship and, possibly, the national championship.


COACH: Paul Pasqualoni, 10th season (75-31-1; 109-48-1, 14 seasons).

1999 RECORD: 7-5, 3-4 Big East (beat Kentucky 20-13 in Music City Bowl).

KEY RETURNEES: DE Duke Pettijohn (10.5 sacks), TB Dee Brown (741 yards), RB James Mungro (Music City Bowl MVP).

KEY LOSSES: K Nate Trout, LB Keith Bullock.

NOTES: Syracuse brings a pretty good offense with a solid running game and decent defense and looks as if it might have a chance to make some noise in the BCS rankings. One problem: The Orangemen don't know who's going to play quarterback. Troy Nunes split time with Madei Williams last season, but they were ineffective and will be pushed by redshirt freshman R.J. Anderson and transfer Chad Elliott. Syracuse's strength will be the defensive line, led by Pettijohn, a preseason all-conference selection. Look for Syracuse to feature an offensive attack heavily slanted toward the running game.

Boston College

COACH: Tom O'Brien, fourth season (16-18).

1999 RECORD: 8-4, 4-3 Big East (lost to Colorado 62-28 in Bowl).

KEY RETURNEES: RB Cedric Washington (1,006 yards rushing), QB Tim Hasselbeck (145-of-261, 1,947 yards, 11 TD).

KEY LOSSES: LB Frank Chamberlin, DT Chris Hovan.

NOTES: The Eagles are coming off their first post-season appearance since 1994 and bring with them two great runners and the Big East's top passer in Hasselbeck. The offense will need to score a lot of points to compensate for the lack of defensive talent. The Eagles' main concern is whether the front seven can make any plays and whether the young defensive backfield can mature quickly. Look for CB Jonathan Ordway to make his presence known this season.


COACH: Walt Harris, third season (13-21; 24-45, six seasons).

1999 RECORD: 5-6, 2-5 Big East.

KEY RETURNEES: QB David Priestley (1,305 yards), WR Latef Grim (100.5 yards per game), S Ramon Walker (131 tackles).

KEY LOSSES: CB Hank Poteat, P Greg DeBolt.

NOTES: Pittsburgh hasn't finished above .500 since 1991 but this could be the season for Harris and his 15 returning starters. Priestley averaged 357 yards passing during a three-game stretch last season, including a 407-yard outburst against Virginia Tech, but underwent surgery on his shoulder during the off-season. He is a question mark. The Panthers picked up the nation's top prep fullback, Dustin Picciotti, and he could contend for playing time. Pitt Stadium was torn down last season and the Panthers will play their home games at Three Rivers Stadium this season.

West Virginia

COACH: Don Nehlen, 21st season (142-88-4; 195-123-8, 29 seasons).

1999 RECORD: 4-7, 3-4 Big East.

KEY RETURNEES: RB Avon Cobourne (114 yards per game), P Mark Fazzolari (41.5 average), WR Khori Ivy (53 rec., 666 yards), WR Antonio Brown (48 catches, 442 yards).

KEY LOSSES: QB Marc Bulger, K Jay Taylor, LB Barrett Green.

NOTES: The West Virginia defense ranked next to last in the Big East last season and Nehlen, the fifth all-time winningest active coach, endured just his fourth losing season in 20 years. Things could get worse this year as the Mountaineers replace seven starters on defense. The secondary was hit the hardest. Rick Sherrod, who started three games last year, is the veteran. On offense, look for West Virginia to struggle to replace Bulger's 1,709 yards and 11 touchdowns. Brad Lewis played well when Bulger was injured and has the inside track, but he lacks experience. Lewis will have some major targets in Ivy, Brown and Carlos Osegueda, who combined for 113 catches last season.


COACH: Bobby Wallace, third season (4-18; 86-54-1, 13 seasons).

1999 RECORD: 2-9, 2-5 Big East.

KEY RETURNEES: LB Taylor Suman (12.9 tackles per game), LB LeVar Taley (11.9 tackles per game), DT Dan Klecko (53 tackles), TB Tanardo Sharps (7.4 yards per carry), QB Devin Scott (1,732 yards, 12 TD).

KEY LOSSES: WR Carlos Johnson, RB Marcus Godfrey.

NOTES: The good news is Temple returns all six lettermen on the offensive line. The bad news is they are all freshmen or sophomores, and that means growing pains are on the horizon. Defensively, the Owls return two of the Big East's top three tacklers in Suman and Talley. The front seven is strong, but after that Temple is going to struggle as CB Philip Shepard is the only returning starter. Opponents will be sure to exploit that weakness. All signs point to another 2-9 season for Wallace, if not worse.


COACH: Terry Shea, fifth season (8-36; 23-42-2, six seasons).

1999 RECORD: 1-10, 1-6 Big East.

KEY RETURNEES: WR Walter King ( 29 catches, 453 yards), Errol Johnson (35 catches, 507 yards), TE L.J. smith (26 catches, 418 yards, 3 TD).

KEY LOSSES: RB Jacki Crooks.

NOTES: Thanks to a November upset of Syracuse the Scarlet Knights did not finish the season winless. They did, however, drop from 5-6 in 1998 to 1-10, and Shea may be looking at the same kind of season as he tries to figure out who is going to play quarterback. Mike McMahon (66-146, 989 yards, 5 TD) is coming off a shoulder injury that caused him to miss the final six games of the season. Chad Schwenk filled in with 845 passing yards and three touchdowns and could push McMahon for playing time. Whoever plays quarterback will be blessed with the opportunity to throw to three great receivers. That probably won't be enough to keep Rutgers out of the Big East cellar.

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