If you have no idea what this is about, then start here.
This seemed lost on many people but nowhere in the original post did it say anything like, “The Big East teams suck.” Two of the teams are pretty good. In fact it’s a safe bet that two Big East teams—West Virginia and Louisville—will finish the season in the Top 10 because 1) They are pretty good and 2) They have relatively easy schedules.
Louisville, should easily get to 10 wins (or more) because, even with a new coach, they’ve got great returning leadership (Brohm) and a totally manageable schedule. They have to travel to Morgantown, but they should be favored in every other game.
For the Mountaineers, it’s the same thing. They get to 10 wins. Although that one’s a little iffier (and just a little) as South Florida showed that if you can stop Steve Slaton, you’ve got a great shot to pull the upset. But again because of the weak schedule, they aren’t facing many opponents with the personnel to do that.
Rutgers had a great year last year, but, as I said before, SUNJ will have to do it again before converting people outside of the New Brunswick area. The rest… Eh.
And more on the “Eh” below but, top to bottom, the Big East is still probably the sixth strongest of the six major conferences. If that.
Here, I want to readdress the 5-0 bowl record from 2006-07. Granted this isn’t about next year’s schedules so much as overall conference strength. I originally discounted that record by pointing out the Big East unblemished mark in bowls last year came against underwhelming opponents. But let’s completely remove any discussion of the quality of the opponents Big East teams beat for the moment.
So, great, the Big East won all of their bowl games last year and was the only conference to do so. What Big East defenders aren’t doing is trumpeting the following: “We also proved how awesome we were in 2005-06 when we went 1-3 in bowl games as a conference.”
In fact, taking the last three years’ records combined, the Big East looks pretty much like every other major conference. Over that time, the Big East is 8-6 for a .571 winning percentage. Compare that to:
Big-12: 12-11 (.522)
Pac-10: 9-7 (.562)
SEC: 12-9 (.571)
Big-10: 8-11 (.421)
ACC: 12-10 (.545)
So, even getting a huge 5-0 boost and 1.000 winning percentage from last year, the Big East’s bowl record over time (albeit a short sample here) is really nothing more or less remarkable than anyone else’s. (The Big 10 is suffering the opposite fate, having been dragged down by a 2-5 record in 06-07).
“Well, okay. That shows we are at least as good as the other conferences.”
Maybe. But not necessarily. Again, when the top ranked team your conference beat was the #18 team in the country (Wake Forest… and I still have problems getting my head around Wake finishing the season ranked) it does make you go, “Hmmm.”
And this is where who you played comes back into it. I have little doubt that if the Big East’s top 2 teams had been saddled with match-ups against Florida and USC they way the Big 10 was, while Michigan and OSU got to play Georgia Tech and Wake Forest, you could swap a couple of L’s and W’s for each conference.
Of course, now we are playing with hypotheticals. You can’t know the outcomes of those games for sure. That’s why they play the games. And that’s why I love college football. Sometimes Boise State beats Oklahoma. But both OSU and Michigan finished last year ranked ahead of any Big East bowl opponent.
But more than anything, the numbers here kind of bolster my theory that bowl success doesn’t really correlate with anything; and that, cumulatively across season after season, all of the major conferences’ bowl winning percentage will be somewhere around .600.
Why? Well, bowls generally match teams of similar talent levels. So BCS schools versus BCS schools are, over time, going to average out to about .500 in each conference.
Along with that, every year or two you get a couple of BCS schools against non-BCS opponents. I’m guessing the former are beating the latter at around a .700 clip. Ergo, all of the conferences are going to be hovering near-if-not-just-below the .600 mark.
Point being, one very successful year did not “legitimize” the Big East and turn it into a conference to be reckoned with; the same way that a bad showing the previous year didn’t get you your BCS privileges revoked.
Just a quick note. The sample here is not perfect. Three years ago Boston College was still in the Big East, and Louisville was sill in C-USA. I didn’t go moving wins based on teams but instead just left the conference as it was that year. I think the Big East nets another win if you move the teams from the conferences they were in then, to the conferences they are in now, but there are some problems in doing that as well ( e.g. match-ups are based on records, which is based on conference, etc.). Ideally the conferences stabilize long enough so that in about 3 years, you can get a 5-year sample, then get a good indication of whether this theory holds up at all.