This is a relatively weak conference, especially for a BCS school. They have been drummed in recent BCS bowl games, but there isn't a perennial loser in the conference, which makes it an exciting and close conference. It is also a conference with a lot of turmoil, as the top 3 (according to my picks) teams have new coaches. When TCU enters the conference, this will be a really fun.
A crazy off-season led to former Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen taking over as head coach. However, if the offense plays anything like Oklahoma State's offense last year, they are in good shape. They don't quite have the talent on that side of the ball that OK State does, but it is not like West Virginia is without talent.
Final Prediction: Norfolk State and Bowling Green are their two easiest games, they start with Marshall, a game you would think they should win. LSU is their toughest game, and it would be no small upset to win that one. However, most of their schedule looks really winnable. 10 wins certainly seems plausible, and they are the favorite to win the conference according to most.
After all the craziness of the off-season, Todd Graham finally became the head coach. He has had some success everywhere he has been, so this may be a good hire. They didn't have a bad year last year, it just wasn't good enough to keep Wannstedt around evidently. They return just 5 starters on the offensive side, and while the quarterback (a very solid one) is one of them, one wonders how much of a system change there is this season. Pittsburgh has a really good defense, as they return 8 starters from last years good one, and they should be able to keep everyone in check, barring a strange system change.
Final Prediction: Buffalo and Maine should be 2 pretty easy wins, but then Iowa and Notre Dame are probably two losses. Sneak Utah into that schedule and its a relatively tough one for Pitt. They still have a shot to win this conference, but will probably come in second and win about 8.
Uconn is coming off a great season including a BCS bowl bid. However, they lost their great coach Randy Edsall, and that will be hard to replace. The grumpy Paul Pasqualoni takes over, and uncertainty looms over a very solid program. However, they return 16 starters, giving them a good shot to repeat what they did last year. They had major uncertainty at quarterback last year, further showing that the QB is still not the most important position on the field. If they can get that settled they have a real good shot at making a great run. The defense was great last year and that won't change a bit.
Final Prediction: Not an unbeatable team on this schedule, and with a start against Fordham, they have the schedule that could allow them to start out 5-0 before West Virginia. Probably not repeating the conference victory of last year, but they should still win about 7.
This is a program that is sneaky good. They have been in 6 straight winning seasons, and were briefly ranked number 2 in the country in 07. However, they were inconsistent last year. They did beat Miami, but lost a couple of weird ones. They also lost 3 offensive linemen this off-season, and with an inconsistent quarterback and a new running back (that should be good by all reports), problems on the offensive side seem likely. Most of their secondary comes back, but the defensive line will need to be redone.
Final Prediction: Notre Dame is a tough way to start, but Ball State, Florida A&M and UTEP will give them a little bit of a break. Miami (FL) will be looking for revenge, and they end the season with West Virginia. They are a borderline team, but should still win the 6 games to qualify for a bowl game.
After a great season in 09, Brian Kelly left, and it all fell apart. A terrible non-bowl season last year makes everyone wonder what direction this program is heading. They return most of their starters though, and last year was obviously a rebuilding season, so a bounce back year is not out of the question. This offense is going to be good and exciting to watch, and the defense should be improving.
Final Prediction: Tennessee and North Carolina State are the big names in their non-conference schedule. They are another borderline team, I lean towards them making a bowl game at 6 wins.
Doug Marrone is going into his third year as head coach, and they are coming off of a 8-5 season. Things are certainly looking up for this program. However, the offense struggled last year, but all the key parts are coming back, so it could be much improved. On the other side of the ball, the story is just the opposite, it was good last year, but most of the key pieces aren't returning.
Final Prediction: 3 of the first 4 games are very winnable, but the other one is USC. Games 2 and 3 in level of difficulty is West Virginia. They also have teams like Tulane, and South Florida that are very beatable on the schedule. Expect some struggles as neither side of the ball looks good enough to carry the team. 5 wins.
They went 7-6 last year in a bounce back season for the program under the first year of Charlie Strong. They had lots of seniors last year though and will have to figure out how to turn this around. They have uncertainty at quarterback and will have to replace their top two receiving targets from last year. They also lost 4 starting offensive linemen, all spelling rebuilding for the offense especially. The defense doesn't really look too hot either.
Final Prediction: They begin the season with Murray State and Florida International. Weeks 3 (Kentucky) and 4 (Marshall) provide very interesting match-ups. We will learn a lot about this team in the stretch of North Carolina, Cincinatti, and Rutgers. I don't think this season will be quite as magical, 4 or 5 wins seem likely.
The last two years have been pretty frustrating, leading to a new offensive coordinator. Sophomore quarterback Chas Dodd already has some experience under his belt, and this well help. Their offensive line was terrible though, and its hard to imagine it gets any better. They couldn't run the ball and their defense was terrible, this doesn't magically change.
Final Prediction: A relatively sane non-conference schedule, with North Carolina being the toughest matchup. However, Navy, Louisville and West Virginia won't be an easy 3 week stretch. This is another 4 win team.