NEWPORT, R.I. ? After receiving 22 of a possible 24 first-place votes, Pittsburgh is the overwhelming favorite to win the 2010 BIG EAST championship in the conference?s annual preseason media poll.
The Panthers had 190 points in the preseason voting of media representatives from each of the eight BIG EAST markets. 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 and head coach Dave Wannstedt return 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 returning players 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 and West Virginia tied for second in the preseason poll with both teams finishing with142 points. Cincinnati (12-1, 7-0 BIG EAST in 2009) has won the last two BIG EAST 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 (9-4, 5-2 BIG EAST) 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, and expects to showcase one of the leading defenses in the BIG EAST.