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Media says Mountaineers are the team to beat

It was Big East Media Day on Tuesday, and this year a handful of coaches, players and media members were rewarded with a trip to lovely Newport, Rhode Island.

The biggest news to come out of these things is almost always the Preseason Media Poll, and this year was no exception. The 24 media members selected to participate in the poll predictably tabbed West Virginia as the team to beat, with the Mountaineers snatching 20 first-place votes.

The entire poll looks like this:

  1. West Virginia (20) 188
  2. Louisville (3) 167
  3. Rutgers (1) 142
  4. USF 123
  5. Cincinnati 86
  6. Pittsburgh 80
  7. Connecticut 45
  8. Syracuse 32
Now I'm not upset that West Virginia is the preseason pick to win it all - they're certainly deserving - but I am upset that the vote was that close to being unanimous. This entire summer I've been struggling to figure out what it is exactly that makes Louisville - the team that beat the Mountaineers by ten a year ago, won the conference and a BCS game, and returns just about the same amount of key players as Rich Rodriguez's club - so inferior.

The most common response is that Louisville has to go to Morgantown this season. This would carry more weight if West Virginia, preparing for a season that included a trip to 2005 conference runner-up U of L, hadn't dominated this same poll a year ago.

What's really going on here is the same thing that's happening in all media: a big, less fun game of follow the leader. I'm sure there were many voters who studied up and came to the conclusion that WVU was the team most likely to snag the conference's auto-bid to the BCS, but I'd be willing to bet my Lionheart Care Bear (my mom was a preschool teacher, I didn't have a choice not to watch) that there were just as many who picked the Mountaineers simply because they'd seen them ranked higher than U of L and Rutgers in all the preseason top 25's they'd scanned.

I know Pat White and Steve Slaton are really fast and that that's a lot of fun to watch, but do 20 of the 24 experts given the responsibility to pick the league's preseason champion really think that the same secondary that allowed scores easier than (insert stupid slutty celebrity name here) against the only three legitimate passing attacks it faced last season has improved that much? Maybe it's the Rodriguez/Kragthorpe factor, I don't know.

Have I mentioned that South Florida is my sleeper pick, and that I really think new Cincinnati head coach Brian Kelly is going to turn the Bearcat offense around with his spread passing attack?