Syracuse can use another great 44, not retirement

Aug 16, 2005 2:41 AM

Syracuse will retire No. 44, worn by famed runningbacks Jim Brown, the late Ernie Davis and Floyd Little, on Nov. 12 against South Florida. That means take the Orange and give the 20 points just on emotion.

That may be the Syracuse highlight in the watered down Big East, which now becomes the domain for powerful entry Louisville. The exit of Miami, Virginia Tech and BC is as lethal as Auburn losing its backfield of Jason Campbell, Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams.

Louisville (see p.10 story) has a chance to run the table, so the conference becomes a battle for second. That figures to be a good scrum between Pittsburgh, West Virginia and perhaps UConn.

Rutgers is talking a good game, but it’s not the first time the so-called "State University of New Jersey" has tried to sell the merits of its football program. Greg Schiano, until last year’s 4-9 spread record, was of the nation’s best coaches as far as getting the most out of his teams.

Schiano is still 24-19 ATS in four years, a far cry to a pathetic 12-34 record straight up. Just two years ago, Rutgers was the nation’s top cover team, going 10-1-1 off an 8-0 ATS start.

Cincinnati and South Florida, which join Louisville into the conference, don’t figure to carry the same clout. The Bearcats won’t be the same without four-year starting QB Gino Guidugli, who gained notoriety for nearly beating Ohio State (23-19 loss) in 2002.

Pittsburgh has probably the best shot at challenging U of L. The Panthers boast exciting run-pass QB Tyler Palko (3,000 yards, 24 TDs, 7 INT last year) and new coach Dave Wannstedt, the former Miami Dolphins head man.

Syracuse hopes to change its downward trend with new coach Greg Robinson, the former defensive coordinator at Texas. Robinson was named to replace Paul Pasqualoni, who in 14 years was an impressive 105-59-1. The Cuse was a solid 8-4 ATS last year, offering legitimate second guessing as to why Paqualoni was dumped.

The new look Big East should benefit West Virginia more than any league member.

The Mountaineers are 16-3-1 SU against Louisville and Cincinnati. However, the Mounties lost 13 starters from an 8-4 squad and are in a rebuilding mode.

That leaves South Florida, which was 3-7 ATS last year. Jim Leavitt is a stellar 55-33 in eight seasons with the Bulls. Only three college coaches (Phil Fulmer, Joe Paterno and Lloyd Carr) reached 50 faster.

Look for USF to beat at least a .500 club, especially in this weaker conference.