Butch Jones inherited a Bearcats team last year that had won two straight Big East Conference Championships and had won a combined 23 games during that two year stretch. But with many of the playmakers that made that run possible gone, Jones’ team struggled to a 4-8 season and Cincinnati missed a bowl game for the first time since 2007.
After a 12 year absence, Syracuse renews its rivalry with fellow private university foe Tulane at the site of this year’s BCS national championship game and NCAA Final Four, the Louisiana Superdome. This is Green Wave head coach Bob Toledo’s fifth year after taking a four season break from coaching (he led UCLA to the 1999 Rose Bowl), and although he increased the win total to four in 2010, he’s only won 13 games overall.
The Scarlet Knights of Rutgers, coming off a transition year on offense that resulted in a 4-8 record (1-6 Big East), head right smack into another transition year. The defense returns only five starters from last season, and some of those five will be seeing time at new positions. On the other side of the ball, the offense returns 10 starters, but they’re a young group who must adapt to new offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti and his pro-style offense.
2010 was a big step in the right direction for the Toledo Rockets. Following years of sanctions and poor play, the team returned to postseason play with an 8-4 regular season record (7-1 MAC) that earned them a spot in the Little Caesar’s Pizza (Motor City) Bowl. The Rockets were led by a ball-hawking defense that finished eighth in the FBS with 20 interceptions and a balanced offense that gained over 2000 yards both passing and rushing.