Big East still worthy of BCS Bid?
The real dilution of the Bowl Championship Series is not an outsider like Miami (Ohio) (13-1 last season) playing in a major bowl game. Nor is it a Fresno State or Boise State infiltrating a BCS bowl.
1. West Virginia
2. Boston College
Off. Player of Year:
Dan Orlovsky, UConn
Def. Player of Year:
Mathias Kiwanuka, BC
Coach of the Year:
Rich Rodriguez, W. Va.
There is, at least, a curiosity factor with the so-called coalition schools having easier access to the BCS beginning in 2006. Whatever teams qualify in the future, they will be, well, qualified. It will take an undefeated or one-loss season to get into the exclusive club.
An Ohio State-Miami (Ohio) Fiesta Bowl would have been a delight last season. If not that, then an all-purple TCU vs. Kansas State major bowl game.
Those matchups would not be the death of postseason football as we know it. More close to that frightening prospect is the BCS keeping the Big East in the loop. The Crippled Conference limps into this season with the most fortunate grandfather clause in sports.
The Big East has lost Miami (Fla.) and Virginia Tech. Boston College departs for the ACC after 2004. Cincinnati, Louisville and South Florida enter next season. Yet, the league kept is automatic BCS berth.
The real fly in the Bengay for bowl executives is, in any given year, an 8-3 Cincinnati could be playing in the Sugar Bowl. South Florida could find its way to the Orange Bowl. Even a 10-1 West Virginia, this year's favorite, doesn't exactly promise a television ratings bonanza.
The point is the reconfigured Big East probably has the least desirable potential cast of champions in the BCS. Syracuse? In basketball, yes. In football, weeelll ...
Boston College isn't even close to being the top draw in its own city. Rutgers? Uh, no. The conference's best story this season is Connecticut, which joined the league a year early after the ACC raid. With a break here and there, the Huskies could find themselves winning the league and playing in a BCS bowl in their first season in the Big East.
But UConn went 9-3 last season as an independent and didn't get a postseason sniff.
Given the dearth of desirable bowl programs, you wonder how the conference got to keep its BCS bid. Maybe commissioner Mike Tranghese's peers simply had pity on him and his league after all it has gone through in the past year.
The clock is running. Big East champions will have to average a final No. 12 ranking in the BCS ratings over a four-year period or the conference's BCS status will be reviewed.
All that overshadows the Mountaineers. For now, they are the Big East's best program, which is saying more than you might think. They might be giants -- the next program to make the jump to national prominence.
Coach Rich Rodriguez seems to have hit his stride in his fourth year at the school. After a 1-4 start, his team won seven of its final eight. A heart-breaking loss at Miami meant the Mountaineers had to share the conference title at 6-1. Over the past two seasons, West Virginia has won 12 of 14 conference games.
An undefeated season is not out of the question even with Maryland and Virginia Tech on the schedule. The Mountaineers are still smarting from being swept by the Terps last season -- 34-7 in the regular season and 41-7 in the Gator Bowl. The Hokies will be waiting in Blacksburg after losing the past two to the 'Neers.
Rodriguez is known as an offensive mastermind, but West Virginia has developed into a tough, all-around team. Who can forget Quincy Wilson's run in the Orange Bowl last year against Miami? With only four returning starters, the defense held opponents to 3.5 yards per rush.
It starts this year, though, with quarterback Rasheed Marshall. The poor man's Michael Vick has run or passed for 46 combined touchdowns in his career. Health is definitely an issue. Marshall missed all or parts of three games with a concussion and abdominal injuries. In the spring scrimmage, he broke a thumb.
Marshall will be ready for the opener. Will West Virginia be ready for the bright lights of the BCS? For all its success under Rodriguez, the Mountaineers have yet to beat a BCS team in a non-conference game in his three seasons (0-8).
1. West Virginia: Proved to be the equal of Miami and Virginia Tech last year. The Mountaineers are even stronger this season with the 'Canes and Hokies out of their hair.
2. Boston College: The most despised team in the Big East makes a lame-duck trek one last time through the league. Biggest roadies are at Pittsburgh and West Virginia. ... Security!
3. Connecticut: There's something about the fast-track aspect of this program. The Huskies have won 13 of their past 16 games going back to 2002. Quarterback Dan Orlovsky might be the league's best offensive player. UConn had more victories last year than West Virginia, Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh and BC. We hear the school is pretty good in basketball, too.
4. Syracuse: Paul Pasqualoni's future might come down to the season finale Nov. 27 at BC. Not good.
5. Pittsburgh: Massive offensive losses will make it next to impossible to match last year's averages of 30 points and 406 yards per game. Defensively, a Pittsburgh tradition of late has been an inconsistent defensive line. Good thing Rutgers and Temple are still in the league to prop up the Panthers.
6. Rutgers: Last year's 5-7 record was cause for celebration. Does that give you any idea how down this program has been?
7. Temple: Perhaps the most callous move of all the conference re-shuffling. The Owls will be kicked out of the conference after this year into the netherworld of supposedly independent status.
Re: Big East still worthy of BCS Bid?
I think the BCS needs the Big East for that Northeastern marketplace. Each school can carry a decent sized market. Right now the Big East is weakened, no doubt, however, in a few years the talent will start to resettle and the Big East will improve. If you think about it, Miami and VT haven't been dominant for very long in the grand scheme of things.