Two years ago, the Big East lost Miami and Virginia Tech to the ACC. Last year, Boston College joined the ranks of the departed. Of course, these were the top three football programs in the conference. The Big East is, was, and always will be a basketball-first conference, and their response to the departure of those three schools reiterated that fact. It's now a 16-team conference with only 8 football-playing members. Yet, due mostly to the fact that its commissioner was the chairman of the BCS committee at the time of the exodus, the Big East retained its automatic BCS berth.
They don't deserve it. Two years ago, three teams tied for the title. Pittsburgh received the BCS bid and was thrashed by Utah (a traditional football powerhouse...at least when compared to Utah State). Last year, West Virginia ran the table and won their bowl against Georgia as a significant underdog. Even so, the fact remains that a Miami-less, Tech-less, BC-less Big East has no better claim to an automatic bid than the Mountain West, WAC, or MAC. Let's look at the numbers:
- In 2005, the Big East was 20-14 in non-conference play and 5-10 against other BCS-conference teams
- That includes a 1-3 record in bowls, where they were outscored 129-102 in losses to such powerhouses as NC State and ASU
- All 5 wins against BCS conference opponents in 2005 were by either Louisville (3-0) and West Virginia (2-2)
- Only one of those wins was over a team with a winning record (WVU over Georgia)
- In 2004, the current Big East Schools were a more respectable 9-13 against current BCS conference teams (including Notre Dame), but only two of those 9 wins were over a team with a winning record (both over then-Big East member Boston College)
- The conference went 2-3 in bowl games, but Boston College got one of those wins over North Carolina; the other win was UConn over Toledo in the Motor City Bowl
Now we have the Big East's Biggest Night. You see, there are only five undefeated BCS Conference schools left. Three are in the Big Least. #12 Rutgers has yet to play anyone and has been ranked accordingly. But WVU and Louisville are the best two teams to come from the Big East since 2001 Miami. They face off tonight, and the winner will almost certainly run the table and at least be in the conversation for the right to get pummeled by the Big Ten champ (which will undoubtedly be The Ohio State University) in the BCS Championship. Yet, this night is the epitome of what's wrong with the Big Least. Everyone knew this would be the conference game of the season, so why schedule it for a Thursday night? If this really was a conference showcase, it would be the ABC primetime game, not the time slot generally taken by a mid-level SEC game or the WAC Game of the Week.
The fact is that the Big East is still not ready for prime time. Say what you will about the conference champion's worthiness (and I will continue to say that any one-loss SEC team is more worthy of having a chance to get crushed by tOSU), but the conference can't honestly make the claim when it continues to portray ITSELF as second-rate. Two teams "share" stadiums with NFL teams. Louisville's stadium is named after pizza. Only West Virginia has a stadium of its own which seats 60,000 (in comparison, all but two Big Ten teams seat more than 60,000; the same is true for the SEC).
I think it's going to be a great game with absolutely no defense eventually won by Louisville. Any team whose coach goes out to take on the Miami Convicts DURING THE PREGAME is good enough to get my vote:
Go Cardinals. Beat the Yokels. And can someone call Mike Tranghesi and revoke the Big Least's automatic bid?