Nobody is calling this conference the ``Big Least'' anymore.
Three Big East teams enter the season ranked in the Top 25, and all have legitimate Heisman Trophy candidates.
West Virginia starts the season at No. 3, matching the team's highest ranking in school history. The Mountaineers open at home against Western Michigan on Saturday. Coach Rich Rodriguez says he's trying to ignore the Heisman hype surrounding quarterback Pat White and running back Steve Slaton. White ran for 1,219 yards and had 18 touchdowns last year. Slaton rushed for 1,744 yards and 16 TDs.
``I expect Pat White to be better (than he was last year), to be honest,'' Rodriguez said. ``It's his fourth year in the system.''
Louisville, the defending conference champions, are No. 10 with new head coach Steve Kragthorpe. The Cardinals open Thursday against Murray State. Quarterback Brian Brohm is back after throwing for over 3,000 yards in 2006, and is expecting more from himself.
``I'd like to think I've matured a lot as a quarterback,'' Brohm said Tuesday.
Rutgers is picked at No. 16. They are favored by 32 points Thursday night against Buffalo and return seven starters on offense, including Ray Rice, who rushed for a conference record 1,794 yards a year ago.
South Florida is the only other Big East team to pick up votes in the preseason poll.
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GET GOING: Several Big East teams are getting an early start to the season.
Rutgers (vs. Buffalo), Louisville (vs. Murray State) and Cincinnati (vs. Southeast Missouri) all open at home Thursday night, while Syracuse will host Washington on Friday.
It will be the Orange's first Friday home game in 54 years. They tied Boston University 16-16 back in 1953.
``It's an opportunity for our university to gain the national exposure,'' Orange coach Greg Robinson said. ``We really have a chance to show America that the Dome is alive and well. It's an exciting thing for us and I'm glad we took this opportunity to be a part of it.''
There are 16 non-Saturday games on the Big East schedule this season - all but the Buffalo-Rutgers game will be televised nationally.
Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said the weekday games can make the week of preparation a bit confusing, as the coaches refer to Monday as Wednesday and Tuesday as Thursday when talking to the players.
``We talk in football days, not worldly days,'' he said.
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NEW GEAR: Syracuse comes into the year with a new look - on its helmets.
Instead of the player's numbers on the side of the lids this year, the team will have a big blue block ``S'' on each side.
The helmets also will have a ``NY'' decal on the back. That's part of the school's effort to brand itself as ``New York's College Team.''
``It is our responsibility as the only BCS or major athletics school in New York to represent the state by fielding extraordinary teams and winning with great character,'' athletic director Daryl Gross said. ``We have been branding ourselves as New York's college team all around the state.''
The school has purchased ad space on New York city taxis to promote the new slogan.
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NCAA OK: South Florida got some good news from the NCAA on Tuesday when running back Jamar Taylor received a hardship waiver that will allow the freshman transfer to play this season.
Taylor transferred from Alabama after just one semester, citing his desires to be closer to his son and family in Lakeland, where he attended high school.
South Florida opens its season at home against Elon on Saturday.
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