The UConn football team, which could have its best team since joining the Big East in 2004, was picked higher than it ever has been in the league’s preseason media poll Tuesday.
Of course, that lofty spot is still just fourth.
Pittsburgh was the overwhelming favorite in the poll, receiving 22 of the 24 first-place votes. West Virginia, which was tied for second with Cincinnati, picked up one first-place vote and UConn the other.
In addition to the 22 first-place votes, Pittsburgh had two second-place votes, making the Panthers the heaviest favorite in the preseason balloting since Louisville had 190 points in the 2005 poll. Pittsburgh returns 12 starters from last year’s team that went 10-3 overall and was 5-2 in Big East play, dropping the two conference games by a combined four points. The returners include the 2009 Big East Offensive Player of the Year in tailback Dion Lewis and one of last year’s Big East Defensive Players of the Year in defensive end Greg Romeus.
Cincinnati has won the last two league titles and brings an 18-game regular-season winning streak into 2010. New head coach Butch Jones will turn to quarterback Zach Collaros to run an offense that has ranked among the nation’s best in recent years, while the Bearcats look to replace six starters on defense.
West Virginia has finished no lower than second in the Big East standings in every year since 2002. Bill Stewart’s squad has 19 returning starters, including a Heisman Trophy candidate in running back Noel Devine.
UConn has 17 starters back from last year’s 8-5 team (3-4 league) that persevered to close last season with four straight wins after dropping five games by a combined 15 points. Connecticut’s 2010 schedule includes home dates against each of the three teams above the Huskies in the preseason poll.
Big East Preseason poll
1. Pittsburgh (22) 190
2. Cincinnati 142
2. West Virginia (1) 142
4. UConn (1) 131
5. Rutgers 99
6. USF 79
7. Syracuse 41
8. Louisville 40