Proving Them Wrong: Big East Teams Are Leaving Their Mark

By Richard Kent
Updated: January 2, 2007

CONNECTICUT — They called it the “Big Least” or the conference that didn’t deserve a BCS bid. Sure, West Virginia was going to be good and Louisville had a chance to be decent, but that was about it.

Certainly Big East football was supposed to be behind the SEC, Pac 10, Big 10 and ACC. It wasn’t supposed to even be close. Well, they were all wrong.

The Big East may have been the best conference in Division I-A college football this year. Certainly at least one of the top two. They finished with a 32-8 (.800) out-of-conference record.

The Big East had three national powers in Rutgers (11-2), Louisville (12-1), and West Virginia (11-2). The conference even had a more than solid team in South Florida.

The Bulls finished the season at 9-4 after beating East Carolina 24-7 in the Bowl. USF also has one of the best freshmen quarterbacks in the country in Matt Grothe.

How about Rutgers? No one picked them to do anything this year and they will end up in the top 15 and will likely be ranked in the preseason top 25 next year.

They’ll return a Heisman Trophy candidate in Ray Rice and their head coach Greg Schiano, who eschewed Miami for a much longer stay at Rutgers.

They completely demolished Kansas State 37-10 in the Texas Bowl. Yes, the same Kansas State team that had beaten Texas during the regular season.

Virtually everyone associated with the KSU program said that Rutgers was the best team they faced this season and they faced some mighty tough teams.

West Virginia, which beat Georgia Tech 38-35 in the Gator Bowl, returns quarterback Pat White and one of the top running backs in the country in Steve Slaton.

Tuesday night, the Big East made it 4-0 in bowl games with Louisville’s 24-13 win against Wake Forest in the Orange Bowl. The Cardinals will likely have their star QB Brian Brohm returning in 2007 as well.

Cincinnati (7-5) has a chance to make the Big East 5-0 in bowl games when they meet Western Michigan in the International Bowl on Saturday.

The Bearcats lost their head coach, Mark Dantonio, to Michigan State, but they still return a strong nucleus especially on defense.

UConn (4-8) and Syracuse (4-8) were better at the end of the season than they were at the beginning of the season and Pittsburgh (6-6) has one of the top recruiting classes in the country coming in next year.

Don’t be surprised if a number of Big East teams are playing on New Year’s Day in 2008. The conference is that good, deep and young and will only get better.

Sure they lost Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College, but they gained much national respect in the process for rebuilding