Tag:Syracuse
Posted on: October 16, 2011 2:33 am
Edited on: October 16, 2011 3:05 am
 

Big East Winners and Losers: Week 7


Posted by Chip Patterson


A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.

WINNER: Greg Schiano

Rutgers' head coach was struggling with his running back rotation, and not getting enough production out of Chas Dodd as the Scarlet Knights started the season. Contrary to the desires of many Rutgers' fans, Schiano dedicated many of the rushing attempts to sophomore Jawan Jamison instead of highly-touted freshman Savon Huggins. Jamison's early season experience paid off in the 21-20 comeback victory over Navy, as he delivered his first 100+ yard performance of his short career. Schiano also made the right call making a quarterback change, giving freshman Gary Nova his first career start against the Midshipmen. Nova also stepped up to the challenge, completing 23 of 31 passes for 271 yards and two touchdowns. There is room for improvement with Nova (like the two interceptions, one returned for a touchdown) but it is clear he is the quarterback of the future for the Scarlet Knights.

LOSER: South Florida's Big East title hopes

After starting conference play with two straight losses, South Florida has made the task of claiming their first Big East title much more difficult. It is not impossible, Connecticut accomplished such a feat just a year ago, but it is particularly challenging with USF's schedule. In order to put themselves in a position to finish atop the league standings, they will need to run the table in conference play and get some significant help. After starting the season 4-0, the Bulls were ranked in the top 20 and getting buzz as Big East frontrunners. Now they stare down Cincinnati, Rutgers, Syracuse (on a short week), Louisville, and West Virginia needing five wins and some help in order to reclaim that buzz surrounding the program in September.

WINNER: Mistake-prone Bearcats

Cincinnati started flat against Louisville on Saturday, and some Bearcats fans will even tell you they arguably deserved to lose the game. The only turnover was a Zach Collaros interception returned for a touchdown, but Cincinnati fumbled the ball four times. Thankfully the ball was recovered by a Bearcat in each of the four instances, but Butch Jones' squad had that kind of luck against the Cardinals. After all, it was Louisville penalties and failure to execute that opened the door for the 18-0 second half run to deliver Cincinnati a victory in their Big East opener. At 5-1 the Bearcats have already surpassed the win total from Jones' first season, and find themselves as one of the new favorites in the hunt for the conference title.

LOSER: Pittsburgh's "no-octane" offense

Head coach Todd Graham has tried everything with Pittsburgh's offense, but with the exception of their explosion against South Florida the Panthers have been painfully ineffective with the ball. Starting quarterback Tino Sunseri still looks uneasy trying to push the ball down the field, and even a change of pace quarterback like Trey Anderson hasn't been able to get anything started for Pittsburgh. The 26-14 loss to a visiting Utah squad was embarrassing, but the offense's inability to score a single point against the Utes was downright shameful. Pittsburgh instead had to get their points with defense and special teams, while their no-octane offense definitely sorts them into the "loser" column for Week 7.

WINNER: West Virginia

Even though the Mountaineers had Week 7 off, they emerge as a winner in the Big East. More conference infighting has revealed vulnerability in West Virginia's opponents in the quest for a conference title. South Florida started the season as one of the early candidates to challenge for the crown, but after Skip Holtz's squad dropped their second conference game and Pittsburgh failed to score an offensive touchdown things are looking good in Morgantown. Their stiffest competition will likely either come from Rutgers and/or Cincinnati. Both games will be road tests for the Mountaineers, and now become the unsuspecting "games to circle" in the Big East conference schedule.

LOSER: Louisville and their self-hating ways

Louisville entered the game as the Big East's most penalized team, averaging 8.6 flags per game. On Saturday they lived up to their reputation, committing four penalties on one drive as the Cardinals held a 16-14 lead heading into the fourth quarter. While Charlie Strong's squad kept the total number of penalties down, that frustrating possession was enough to swing the momentum away from the inexperienced Cardinals. When Cincinnati got the ball back, it only took two plays for Isaiah Pead to break loose for 50 of his 151 yards rushing and a touchdown to take the lead away from Louisville. For the third week in a row, the Cardinals suffer a close loss. A game that could have easily ended differently if not for some crucial mental errors.


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Posted on: October 13, 2011 3:53 pm
Edited on: October 14, 2011 4:01 pm
 

PODCAST: McMurphy on the Big East, etc.

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

It's been another big week behind the scenes at the Big East as the league attempts to rebuild in the wake of Syracuse, Pitt and TCU's defections ... even as, as reported by CBSSports.com senior writer Brett McMurphy, its individual members prepare for a full-on scramble to the lifeboats. In this edition of the CBSSports.com College Football Podcast, McMurphy talks with Adam Aizer about the league's plans for expansion, its hopes of keeping current members in the boat, divisional splits, and much more outside the Big East: Texas and Oklahoma State, Steve Spurrier's media brouhaha, the Big Ten's Legends division race, hate mail, etc.

To listen, click below, download the mp3, or open up our popout player in a new window. And if you like what you hear, subscribe to the CFB Podcast in iTunes by clicking here.



Posted on: October 9, 2011 12:35 pm
Edited on: October 9, 2011 6:16 pm
 

Air Force AD: Interest 'high' in Big East

Posted by Chip Patterson

Following the news of TCU's plans to accept an invitation to join the Big 12, the presidents of the remaining Big East schools participated in a conference call Friday morning to discuss the league's future. Contrary to some reports no official decisions or announcements came from the meeting, but all signs point to the conference extending invitations to membership in the near future.

One of the schools frequently listed as a target for football is Air Force. CBSSports.com's Brett McMurphy reported that the conference was targeting Navy and Air Force before Syracuse and Pittsburgh bolted for the ACC. Even with the league now looking at only six football programs moving forward, Air Force athletic director Hans Mueh is still interested in the idea of joining the Big East.

"Our interest is high in the Big East. That's fair to say," Mueh told The Denver Post on Saturday. "This stuff is moving fast."

Mueh pointed out that his ideal scenario involves Air Force, Navy and Army all making the move to participating in the Big East for football, but there were no certainties in the discussions. The Falcons were listed by some as a possible target for Big 12 expansion after Texas and Oklahoma announced their intentions to stay in the league. Mueh confirmed on Saturday the school was approached by the Big 12, to which the AD said "no thanks."

"We were approached by the Big 12, and I told them we're not a good fit for that conference. In the Big 12, geography makes sense, the economics make sense, but the recruiting makes no sense for us. I can't recruit against Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State," Mueh explained.

"That's why I turned down the Big 12. I can't do that to my kids, because they'll get beat up. I'd love the extra $12 million or whatever it would be per year from the TV money. And I know how I'd spend the money. I'd build a new soccer stadium, and I'd build a new baseball facility, all in one year. But I can't do that."

Interesting take from the Air Force AD. He also said the Big East "absolutely" wants Army. But there are strong sentiments within the Army community that making the move to Big East conference play may be detrimental to the program in similar ways the Falcons were concerned about the Big East.

Action is expected from the league in the coming weeks regarding football expansion. In addition to the service academies, East Carolina, Central Florida, and Temple have been listed as candidates. The key for the league will be to find a program that fits with the other schools, while still maintaining the football success necessary to retain their automatic bid to the Bowl Championship Series.

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Posted on: October 9, 2011 3:04 am
Edited on: October 9, 2011 12:02 pm
 

Big East Winners and Losers: Week 6



Posted by Chip Patterson


A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.

WINNER: West Virginia's rushing game

Freshman running back Dustin Garrison broke out a week ago as the Mountaineers best option running the ball, piling up 291 yards against Bowling Green. Because of the option, it was hard to say that West Virginia had done much more than get a start on fixing their one-dimensional offensive problem. However Garrison had a commendable showing once against against Connecticut, picking up 80 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. The numbers weren't flashy, but when Geno Smith is carving up the defense for 450 yards it serves as a nice compliment. Connecticut also entered the game as the Big East's second leading rushing defense, so the Mountaineers have to feel good about having a more balanced attack as they proceed in conference play.

LOSER: Louisville

North Carolina did not show up to play offensively, and Louisville had several chances to take advantage of mental lapses by the Tar Heels on defense. But the Cardinals were unable to make the most of the opportunity to steal a win on the road and dropped to 2-3 after the 14-7 loss. The defense sacked North Carolina quarterback Bryn Renner four times, and held the usually productive offense scoreless in the first half. The Tar Heels were lucky to escape with a win, and Louisville missed out an opportunity to grab potential confidence booster for the young team.

WINNER: Gary Nova

After taking over for starting quarterback Chas Dodd and leading the Scarlet Knights to a double overtime victory against Syracuse, head coach Greg Schiano made the this week's starter a game time decision. When Nova got the nod, he made the most of the opportunity and led the team to a 34-10 win over Pittsburgh. A huge portion of Rutgers' victory on Saturday is due to the play of the Scarlet Knights defense picking off Pitt quarterbacks four times, but the freshman signal caller did just enough to turn those turnovers into the points needed to push Rutgers to the top of the Big East standings.

LOSER: Tino Sunseri

For the second time this season, Pittsburgh's starting quarterback was replaced by backup Trey Anderson after committing one to many turnovers. No need to bring up the "quarterback controversy" topic, head coach Todd Graham has already said Tino is still the starting quarterback for now. But Sunseri's three interception performance was particularly frustrating for the Panther fans who were singing his praises following the beatdown of USF on national television last Thursday. Sunseri has thrown five touchdowns compared to seven interceptions on the season, and has yet to prove he can throw deep in this new high-octane offense. Ray Graham is still the heart and soul of this offensive unit, but he can't do much to prevent or reverse the Panthers' turnover problem.

WINNER: West Virginia's pass rush

In addition to Geno Smith's high-powered passing attack and a growing ground game, the Mountaineers defense was a nightmare for Connecticut on Saturday. Huskies quarterback Johnny McEntee was sacked five times, including once for a safety, and was on the run all night from West Virginia's pass rush. Once West Virginia began building a lead, defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel turned up the pressure and muted any chance for momentum from the Connecticut offense. The Mountaineers held the Huskies to 97 yards of total offense in the second half, keeping drives short while the offense extended the lead. If West Virginia can continue that kind of formula against their other conference opponents, it should result in several more league victories like the one in Morgantown on Saturday.

LOSER: Paul Pasqualoni

When the former Syracuse head coach took the Connecticut job, I am not sure the Huskies' 2-4 start was what he had in mind following a Big East title. The defending league champs got off to a rough start in 2010 before turning the season around in league play, but there has been little to cheer about for the Huskies at this point in the season. Pasqualoni finally solved the quarterback situation, but has no answer for a defense dealing with injuries and inexperience along with a significantly downgraded rushing game. The only UConn victories have been against Fordham and Buffalo, and at this point bowl eligibility is already looking doubtful. Pasqualoni is too far into his career to think of this as a rebuilding opportunity, but his loyalty to his home state makes me think it will take a lot more than one bad season to derail his passion for coaching the Huskies.

WINNER: Syracuse

The Orange are off to a 4-2 start in the 2011 season, thanks to yet another close victory in the final minutes. Syracuse has gone to overtime in three games (2-1) and had every victory decided by seven points or fewer. After the non-victory overtime victory against Toledo, I wrote that the double overtime loss to Rutgers was some weird kind of karma. After Syracuse's 37-34 victory over Tulane on the road, I'm convinced their is voodoo at work.

LOSER: 3,000+ no-shows in Morgantown

The official attendance at Saturday's game was 56,179. After head coach Dana Holgorsen's tirade this past week, all 3,000+ no-shows deserve a stern look from the head coach. NOW DEAL WITH YOUR STERN LOOK.

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Posted on: October 4, 2011 1:23 pm
Edited on: October 5, 2011 2:42 am
 

CBSSports.com Conference Power Rankings (Oct. 4)


Posted by Chip Patterson

Just after I wrote last week about how the Big 12 is pushing the SEC for the top spot in the power rankings, Texas A&M shows up with a monumental collapse against Arkansas in Cowboys Stadium. Despite the jokes about it being a "SEC West conference matchup," this was a poor display for the 2011 version of the Big 12. But the most glaring conference realization from Week 5 was in regards to the Big Ten.

Wisconsin handled Nebraska in Camp Randall easily, becoming a conference favorite and national title contender. But elsewhere in the conference, Michigan State and Ohio State - both ranked at the beginning of the season - played out a painful 10-7 Spartan victory that displayed more offensive inefficiencies than defensive dominance. Illinois and Michigan have been the surprises of the Big Ten this season, and if you have watched either team play that should not give the conference a ton of confidence.

The ACC has begun to make their case with the emergence of Clemson and Georgia Tech in the national spotlight. If Virginia Tech and Florida State can bounce back this weekend the league will have four teams in the rankings and boost their stock significantly. Mountain West had a rough weekend, and if the struggles continue it could end up costing Boise State a shot at the title. The most shake up in this week's rankings come near the bottom, where the Sun Belt has fallen two spots to last place.

You can give your opinion in the comment section below, but here are the CBSSports.com 2011 Conference Power Rankings heading into Week 6.


1. SEC (LW: 1)- Alabama and LSU continue on their warpath towards the Nov. 5 meeting in Tuscaloosa, but the conference takes a bit of a hit with Florida's stock dropping. As much as a mess the SEC East is, the West has four teams in the Top 15 of the AP Poll and the conference showdowns once again reminds us how big and bruising these SEC teams are, and why they have won the last five national championships.  The Big 12 was certainly pushing the SEC last week, but Arkansas' come-from-behind victory over future confernece rival Texas A&M has kept Mike Slive's conference in the top spot of the power rankings. 

2. Big 12 (LW: 2) - As mentioned above, the Big 12 does settle back into No. 2 after that monumental collapse by the Aggies in Arlington on Saturday. However, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State appear to be dancing their way to a Bedlam showdown for the ages. But Texas will have something to say about that in the Red River Shootout this weekend. The Longhorns have their quarterback situation sorted out, and have looked dominant in road wins over UCLA and Iowa State. Despite the off-field headlines, all seems normal on the field with Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Texas vying for the Big 12 title.

3. Pac-12 (LW: T-3) - Stanford's seventh straight win of 26 points or more has reminded the nation that there is a powerhouse on the West Coast that does not quack. Arizona State survived Oregon State's best shot to preserve a solid representation in the polls, and Washington has emerged as a surprise thanks to a 4-1 start. The addition of Colorado no longer makes Washington State the conference door mat, and the Pac-12 leaps out of a tie with the Big Ten to hold third place to themselves in the power rankings.

4. Big Ten (LW: T-3) - Wisconsin's beatdown of Nebraska on national television cemented their status as a title contender and kicked off Russell Wilson's official Heisman campaign. But outside of Madison, there are a lot of question marks surrounding the Big Ten's "frontrunners." Michigan, Illinois, and Michigan State all have displayed frustrating inconsistencies, and if the Cornhuskers are the second best team in the conference there is a huge gap between the Badgers and the rest of the league. Ohio State, on the other hand, is doing a great job of making headlines off the field. If the on-field performance won't cut it, at least the Buckeyes have that - right?

5. ACC (LW: 5) - The ACC is beginning to make a charge up the power rankings, but still don't quite have enough going for them to jump the Big Ten or Pac-12. Clemson's defeat of their third straight ranked opponent makes them the first ACC member to accomplish that feat in the league's history. Georgia Tech has also jumped into the scene with their 5-0 start thanks to one of the most productive offenses in the nation. Predicted division-winners Florida State and Virginia Tech haven't derailed just yet because of their 0-1 conference starts, and will be looking to bounce back in crucial division match ups this weekend.

6. Big East (LW: 6) - South Florida's rising bubble burst on Thursday night, getting embarrassed by Pittsburgh on national television. In the words of Adam Jacobi: "It's the Big East, where nothing that is supposed to happen happens!" West Virginia remains at the top of the pile, but the rest of the conference is up for grabs at this point. Some call it parity, others call it mediocrity, but the fact remains you never know what kind of performance you'll get your opposition in Big East conference play.

7. Mountain West Conference (LW: 7) - The Mountain West has slowly fallen from a borderline premiere conference thanks to several notable losses and a recent hiccup in the non-conference performance. In Week 5, the league went 1-3 in non-conference matchups - with Air Force's overtime victory against Navy as the only win. TCU's overtime loss to SMU is embarrassing for the league, and despite expectations Colorado State and New Mexico losing home games to WAC opponents doesn't help. None of this is helping Boise State's cause, who has continued to steamroll through their schedule.

8. Conference USA (LW: 10) - After a questionable start, Conference USA bounced back in a big way this past week - picking up three impressive non-conference wins. Marshall's takedown of Louisville, SMU's upset of TCU, and even Tulsa's victory over North Texas provided enjoyable entertainment for Conference USA fans. Even lowly UAB hung tight with Troy, one of the top teams in the Sun Belt. Tulane's loss to Army doesn't look great, but it was overshadowed by the big wins mentioned above.

9. MAC (LW: 8) - Western Michigan's takedown of Connecticut was the bright spot this weekend's MACtion, which featured four conference matchups while Ball State, Bowling Green, and Miami were fed to BCS Rancors. Toledo and Temple not nearly as close as I expected, with the Rockets jumping out to 15-3 first quarter lead and never looking back. Owls fans filled less than 22,000 of Lincoln Financial Field's 68,000+ seats, and the game did little but lock in Toledo's status as the conference favorite moving forward.

10. WAC (LW: 11) - San Jose State and New Mexico State delivered non-conference wins over Mountain West opponents while Nevada received the revenge punishment from Boise State on the Smurf Turf. Idaho put together a respectable performance taking Virginia to overtime on the road. Fresno State also came close to knocking off a BCS opponent last weekend, but blew a 28-27 fourth quarter lead to Ole Miss.

11. Sun Belt (LW: 9) - Not a great week for the Sun Belt. Conference favorites FIU suffered their second consecutive loss, and this time at the hands of Duke. Troy struggled to beat UAB, and one of the conference's only non-conference wins was Middle Tennessee squeaking past Memphis. When Louisiana-Lafayette is the conference leader, things aren't' off to a great start for the league.

Check back in to the Eye On College Football next week for the updated edition of the Conference Power Rankings.

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Posted on: October 2, 2011 1:42 am
Edited on: October 2, 2011 1:51 am
 

What I learned from the Big East (Oct. 1)


Posted by Chip Patterson


1. Either Pittsburgh's better, South Florida's worse, or something. Not entirely sure what it is exactly we can take away from Thursday night's matchup between nationally ranked (probably not for long) South Florida and Pittsburgh. The Bulls are winless in nationally televised Thursday night games, so history wasn't on their side. But this was the same Panthers team that blew fourth quarter leads against Iowa and Notre Dame. The last thing I expected as a 44-17 beatdown in this Big East opener.

But in conference play, sometimes you'll have games that defy football knowledge or logic - and for this we are thankful. In this case, the Bulls are left with plenty of questions. The seemingly potent offense has very different numbers against Pittsburgh and Notre Dame (20 points per game) than they do against Ball State, Florida A&M, and UTEP (53 points per game). The methodical routs of lesser opponents had me thinking this could be South Florida's year to finally finish higher than 3rd in the Big East, but Thursday's loss made me much less certain.

But there are plenty of other factors that help explain Thursday's outcome. Mostly, it was the perfect scenario for Ray Graham to star in Todd Graham's "high-octane" offense. The Panthers had struggled to find consistency in the new system, with quarterback Tino Sunseri looking uncomfortable with the pace early and struggling to get the ball downfield. The scheme is by no means flawless, but Graham's work running the ball and catching out of the backfield helped keep South Florida's defense running all over the field, eventually gassing them for 303 all-purpose yards.

The fact that Pittsburgh had not put together a dominant performance meant there was very little film of the offense working for South Florida to prepare. The short week meant the defense had even less time to prepare. These are not excuses, but the Bulls did not seem ready for Pittsburgh at all. By the time they looked around to see what had happened, the game was already out of hand.

But that's how Todd Graham's system is meant to work. When USF's linebackers were already throwing hands on pads by the third quarter, the Panthers offense smelled blood and went into kill mode rattling off 24 unanswered second half points.

Pittsburgh is definitely improving, and South Florida might not be as flawless as some believed. To what extent both statements are true is yet to be seen, but that discussion will be for another week.

2. Cincinnati might be 2011's dark horse. For a team that was 4-8 a year ago and returns many of the same players, the Bearcats have tied up many of the loose ends that plagued them in 2010. Cincinnati's defense ranked near the bottom of the Big East in most statistical categories a season ago, and virtually the same lineup now is only giving up 12.2 points per game. The level of competition hasn't exactly been top-notch during Cincinnati's 4-1 start, but you have to see results somewhere. The biggest improvement on the defensive end has been the ability to force turnovers and then let the offensive turn them into points. The Bearcats lead the nation with 18 forced turnovers, and there is nothing that all-conference quarterback Zach Collaros likes more than a short field to do work.

Collaros has also rediscovered his rushing game, which took a back seat a year ago after being a weapon in his arsenal as an underclassman. The senior quarterback was the leading rusher against Miami on Saturday, picking up 89 yards on 15 carries in the 27-0 victory over their in-state rivals. Nothing is settled until conference play begins, but if this squad continues to show their improvement in conference play I'd imagine they are top three in the conference with a chance to steal the title in November. By no means the favorite, but definitely a dark horse candidate.

3. West Virginia might have found a ground game. It was a much different caliber of competition, but the Mountaineers delivered with a much-needed rushing performance against Bowling Green in their 55-10 victory. Freshman running back Dustin Garrison led the way with 291 yards and two touchdowns on a bruising 32 carry afternoon. West Virginia entered the game as one of the nation's worst rushing teams. On Saturday they piled up more yards on the ground than they had in the previous four contests combined. The special teams woes from the LSU game continued, but at least they may have found a solution for the unbalanced offense. With teams being forced to respect the rushing attack, quarterback Geno Smith should have plenty of opportunities to stretch opposing defenses and put torment Big East opponents with Holgorsen's offensive system. The rest of the Mountaineers' schedule is made up of their seven Big East conference games. If a return to a BCS bowl is the goal, then the ground game showed up just in time for West Virginia.

4. Syracuse can't avoid karma. The biggest story for Syracuse football in the last week was the win they might not have earned. I completely understand the decision not to overturn the extra point that wasn't, particularly because it wasn't the last play of the game, but the fact remains that the kick was no good. If Toledo can hold on to the ball, Syracuse loses in regulation and the game never goes to overtime.

When the Orange went to their third overtime of 2011 in a game that already featured four field goals, I had a feeling Doug Marrone's squad might not be able to escape this one. After Rutgers (gasp) kicked a field goal to take a 16-13 lead, it was only appropriate that a fumble needed to be reviewed to seal Syracuse's fate. Not trying to hate on Syracuse's team or the Big East's decisions regarding last week's outcome, but Saturday felt like the football gods were doing some self-correction.

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Posted on: September 29, 2011 7:56 pm
Edited on: September 29, 2011 7:57 pm
 

Report: Big 12 may be interested in TCU after all

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Hooray! More conference realignment news!

Texas A&M has already left the Big 12 for the SEC and there are some who believe that Missouri may soon follow the Aggies out the door. Which would leave the Big 12 with only eight schools and looking for potential replacements. As I wrote about yesterday, BYU, Boise State, West Virginia and Louisville have all been mentioned as possibilities for the conference as it may plan on returning to a 12-team league.

One school that isn't mentioned there that seems to make sense, however, is TCU. This is because it had been reported that Big 12 schools weren't exactly thrilled with the idea of adding another conference school in the state of Texas, but according to a report in the Dallas Morning News that may no longer be the case. The Dallas Morning News report is subscription only, but thankfully The Star-Ledger picks up where that pesky subscription line leaves off.
According to a report in today’s Dallas Morning News, “the Big 12 has a new stance about adding members from Texas, potentially opening the door for TCU and other schools.”

What it means is that TCU could be out of the Big East before it ever officially joins. According to two college officials, it would be an easy departure for the Horned Frogs, since they would only have to pay a $5 million exit fee and aren’t bound by the 27-month waiting period penalty unless they are Big East members as of July 1.

The two officials requested anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss TCU’s situation.
The Big 12 may be a more desirable destination for TCU should the offer come along, and not just for geographic and traditional reasons. Simply put, with Pitt and Syracuse already leaving the Big East and UConn expressing a similar desire, hard as it is to believe, the Big 12 is the most stable option at the moment. It would also still provide TCU access to the BCS.

What isn't clear is whether or not TCU would be the Big 12's top choice of a replacement to get back to ten schools, or if the Horned Frogs are only an option should Missouri leave.

But, as with all reports on potential realignment these days, we don't really know anything until the school makes it official.
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