Despite losing its top offensive and defensive players to the NFL, the Pittsburgh football team was picked to win the Big East in the Conference's annual media poll Tuesday morning.
Pitt received eight first place votes and 161 total points to lead the other seven Big East schools. Others receiving first place votes were West Virginia with five (151 total points), defending champion Cincinnati with eight (144 total points) and South Florida with three (130 total points).
This season marks the first time in Big East history that the Panthers have been chosen to win the Conference title. Last season, Pitt earned a No. 3 preseason nod and finished second.
Pitt returns 14 starters from last season's 9-4 team that finished second in the Big East with a 5-2 league mark and received a bid to the Sun Bowl. Highlighting the Panthers' returnees are All-America candidates in senior tight end Nate Byham (Franklin, Pa./Franklin), redshirt junior defensive end Greg Romeus (Coral Springs, Fla./Coral Glades) and senior cornerback Aaron Berry (Harrisburg, Pa./Bishop McDevitt).
Pitt opens its 2009 season against Youngstown Sept. 5 at 1 p.m. at Heinz Field.
Here is how the voting played out:
1. PITT (8) 161
2. West Virginia (5) 151
3. Cincinnati (8) 144
4. USF (3) 130
5. Rutgers 126
6. Connecticut 74
7. Louisville 51
8. Syracuse 27
The football universe is frantic about the start of the 2009 season and NFL organizations have…