October 28 - The Big East Beast
No longer should there be jokes of Big East football being tabbed the Big Least.
The Big East has proven its worth this year. It is worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as the
big boys in Division 1A college football.
Just last year the Big East was taking a lot of heat for getting an automatic berth in college football’s
Bowl Championship Series, or BCS. And deservedly so. Few people could justify that the conference
was anything better than a so-called mid-major.
After all, following the 2004 season Pittsburgh gained entrance into the BCS with a record of 7-4,
which was easily the worst record among all the teams playing in the four BCS games.
In 2005 West Virginia received the automatic berth into the Sugar Bowl with a 10-1 record. And while
their record was respectable, people claimed their competition was sub par in an inferior conference.
What’s more, the former powerhouses in the Big East had jumped ship for the ACC. Viginia Tech,
Miami, and Boston College said goodbye in order to join a conference with a championship game.
That alone should have clued everyone in that the Big East was done for. Goners, right?
Wrong. Something happened in the 2005 Sugar Bowl that set the tone for the entire Big East 2006
regular season. West Virginia beat Georgia as six point underdogs. Nobody from the Big East was
supposed to beat the SEC champions!
West Virginia has managed to bring that same momentum into the 2006 season and the rest of the
Big East has followed their lead.
The Mountaineers are currently among seven unbeaten teams in Division 1A college football
including two more teams from the Big East in Louisville and Rutgers.
Sure, people are going to argue that the teams from the Big East haven’t played any tough
competition. But if that’s the case, then why aren’t there any teams from the Mountain West or
Conference USA that are undefeated as well?
West Virginia is currently the top ranked team in the Big East, and who can argue? The star power of
running back Steve Slaton and quarterback Pat White could possibly lead the Mountaineers to the
national championship game in Glendale, Arizona come January.
In order to get there West Virginia would have to get past Louisville in what is guaranteed to be a
battle of the unbeaten on Thursday November 2nd thanks to a bye week for both teams this weekend.
Louisville hopes to have a 100 percent healthy Brian Brohm who’ll be ready to roll. It’s amazing to
think that had running back Michael Bush not gotten hurt, the Cardinals could be the top ranked team
in the Big East. Even in Bush’s absence George Stripling, Kolby Smith, and Anthony Allen have not
done all that bad.
Perhaps the most surprising of all is the 8-0 Rutgers team led by perhaps the best backfield in the
nation in Ray Rice and Brian Leonard. Head coach Greg Schiano continues to defy the odds by
creating a winner in New Jersey. The miracle run began last year when Schiano led the Scarlet
Knights to their first bowl game in 27 years. It’s no wonder Schiano’s name has been bandied about
in regards to some of the country’s most prestigious head coaching positions. Let’s not forget All-
American tight end candidate Clark Harris’s contributions as well.
Rutgers beat a Pittsburgh team last weekend that came into the game at 6-1. Head coach Dave
Wanstedt had been under scrutiny after performing below expectations last year but appears to have
righted the ship in 2006. Quarterback Tyler Palko and linebacker HB Blades have been major
reasons for Pittsburgh’s resurgence.
Even South Florida is only one win away from becoming bowl eligible while sporting a record of 5-3 at
present. Not bad for a team qualifying for its first ever bowl game a mere year ago.
And it was an upset of South Florida in front of a national television audience on Sunday during
primetime that has vaulted Cincinnati back into bowl contention. The Bearcats evened their record at
Syracuse was a big reason that the Big East was down in the recent past. For a team with such a rich
history, it was embarrassing to watch the Orange fall to 1-10 last year. The ‘Cuse has said goodbye
to its laughingstock ways, though. Greg Robinson has his team clutching to hopes of bowl eligibility
right now. At the very least, a win over Syracuse means a lot more than it did a year ago.
Congratulations to the Big East. You’ve got yourself some pretty decent football teams. You deserve
automatic inclusion to the BCS. However, a word to the wise: keep it up. Fans are fickle. Another
down year will generate the same fans calling for your exclusion to the BCS.