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Tag:Big East Conference
Posted on: September 29, 2011 11:32 am
Edited on: September 29, 2011 11:35 am
 

The unique importance of Big East league play


Posted by Chip Patterson


On Thursday night, Pittsburgh and South Florida will kick off the Big East conference schedule on national television. To the uninformed viewer, I should probably offer a warning.

Big East conference matchups aren't always pretty.

Since the last major conference shift in 2004-2005, the Big East has become the butt of the many jokes in the college football world. What the conference boasts as "parity" often gets translated from the national perspective into "mediocrity."

But I would instead summarize Big East conference play as "unique." Of the six BCS conferences, the current makeup of the Big East makes it so that every team in the league can (and should) feel like they have a shot at a BCS bowl berth.

The way the conference has set up awarding that BCS bid, the only way to help your chances is to treat every single game in league play like the conference championship. So while some will scoff at the idea of intriguing Big East conference play, at least every single game matters.

At the root of the heightened competition is the absence of divisions or a conference title game. In the last eight seasons, there has been a tie for the conference title four times. In that same period, eight different schools have earned at least a share of the top spot in the league. But for the Big East, winning a tie-breaker could be the difference between a BCS bowl bid and the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, NC.

I'm sure we will review the tie-breaker scenarios extensively when they become more relevant in November, but in a division-less eight team league the focus is entirely on head-to-head records. In three-way and four-way ties, Big East rules call for a "mini-conference" to be created, with the head to head records of the teams in question sorting out the order.

In 2010 West Virginia, Pittsburgh, and Connecticut finished the regular season tied with 5-2 conference records. When the mini-conference was drawn up, the Huskies finished on top with a 2-0 record against the Panthers and Mountaineers. The two victories were a 16-13 overtime win against West Virginia and a 30-28 win against Pittsburgh.

Despite spending the entire regular season unranked (West Virginia and Pittsburgh both spent time in the polls) and having a worse overall record than the Mountaineers, the Huskies earned the league's BCS bid. They earned it thanks to two wins of three points or less in the middle of their conference season.

That makes Big East conference play unique. The round-robin format allows no team to escape with a "easy draw" and a field goal in October could determine who gets a bid to a BCS bowl in January. The Big East has never had a team pick up a BCS at-large bid, and likely will not in 2011.

Like I said, it won't always be pretty. But for the teams involved it will always matter. They are not playing for style points or computer rankings in the Big East. They are fighting against each other for one prize, one game at a time.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com