Despite the fact that its BCS pedigree is constantly questioned by critics the Big East Conference annually churns out some impressive fantasy football options. One reason is the scheduling, because with just seven league games teams take on at least one (and in some cases two) FCS opponent.
Add in the unpredictable nature of the league, some new head coaches (the last five BCS representatives have all moved on to new positions) and six returning starting quarterbacks and the Big East could be quite productive in 2011. Here are some players to keep an eye on from a fantasy perspective this fall.
Cincinnati: QB Zach Collaros
Collaros could be in line for a special 2011 campaign in year two under Butch Jones. In his first season as the full-time starter, Collaros threw for 2,902 yards and 26 touchdowns in 11 games (one missed due to injury) while also rushing for another 202 yards and four scores. Collaros averaged 282 yards of offense per game and despite the loss of WR Armon Binns that number should increase.
Also watch: RB Isaiah Pead, WR D.J. Woods, WR Kenbrell Thompkins
Connecticut: RB D.J. Shoemate
If the USC transfer is over the fumbling issues that relegated him to third on the depth chart (a distant one at that) there will be opportunities to be had. Jordan Todman, on the strength of a stellar 2010 campaign, moved on the NFL while Robbie Frey transferred to be close to home. Shoemate, a big back at 5'11”, 219 pounds, is definitely talented enough to take the reins at running back. Add in the yet to be decided quarterback issue and the Huskies may need Shoemate to have a standout season.
Also watch: TE Ryan Griffin, WR Kashif Moore, K David Teggart
Louisville: RB Victor Anderson
Anderson's injury issues in 2010 helped spark the senior season of Bilal Powell, but in fairness to Powell it was he who head coach Charlie Strong judged to be “the face” of the program. Can Anderson, who was Big East Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2008, take over that role? Anderson, who finished last season with 286 yards rushing, ran for 1,047 yards and eight touchdowns in 2008.
Also watch: TE Josh Chichester, RB Jeremy Wright, WR Josh Bellamy
Pittsburgh: RB Ray Graham
With Dion Lewis off to the NFL 2011 could (and should) be a big year for Graham, especially with the high octane offense that new head coach Todd Graham will look to run. The spread attack, while it will result in more passes for QB Tino Sunseri, should also open up running lanes for Graham. Graham, who can produce in the passing game as well, rushed for 922 yards and eight touchdowns in 2010 to go along with 213 yards on 24 receptions.
Also watch: Sunseri, WR Mike Shanahan, WR Devin Street
Rutgers: WR Mark Harrison
Despite the presence of players such as QB Chas Dodd and WR Mohamed Sanu, Harrison is the pick here thanks to a breakout 2010 campaign. The Stratford, CT product caught a team-best (tied with Sanu) 44 passes, good for 829 yards and nine touchdowns. It was Harrison, who is the conference's leading returnee in both touchdown receptions and yards per catch, who was named team Offensive MVP at the postseason banquet.
Also watch: Dodd, Sanu, RB Savon Huggins
USF: QB B.J. Daniels
Daniels made up for the injury that sidelined him for the regular season finale by putting forth an MVP performance in the Bulls' Meineke Car Care Bowl win over Clemson, and having a full season in Skip Holtz's system should pay off in 2011. But in order for the growth to be realized Daniels must make good decisions in the passing game; he threw 13 interceptions to 11 touchdowns in 2010. Also a threat on the ground, Daniels rushed for 259 yards and five touchdowns.
Also watch: RB Darrell Scott, WR Evan Landi, RB Lindsey Lamar
Syracuse: RB Antwon Bailey
Workhorse Delone Carter has graduated, meaning that Bailey will now get his chance to shine as a senior. Bailey, who is also a reliable receiver out of the backfield, rushed for 554 yards and two touchdowns in 2010. Prince Tyson-Gulley will receive reps as the backup but given his recent off-field issue, maybe more responsibility is given to Bailey in the opener against Wake Forest.
Also watch: QB Ryan Nassib, WR Van Chew, TE Nick Provo
West Virginia: QB Geno Smith
Now that the turmoil surrounding the head coaching issue has subsided it's time for football in Morgantown, and 2011 could shape up as a special season if spring football and the resume of Dana Holgorsen carry over. Smith, who threw for 2,763 yards and 24 touchdowns (seven interceptions) last season, nearly reached 500 yards in the spring game. With his ability to run combined with some very good receivers back Smith could be well over 3,000 yards in total offense by the end of the season.
Also watch: WR Tavon Austin, WR Stedman Bailey, RB Ryan Clarke