Column - Befuddled Big East set for big finish
Published: Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, November 16, 2011 23:11
All right, I give up.
I'm finished trying to pretend that I have any idea what is going to happen by the end of the regular season in the Big East.
Week after week the same thing happens: favorites lose, forgotten teams re-enter the conversation for conference champion and West Virginia special teams do the unthinkable – like playing well this past weekend ... who saw that coming?).
Another weekend of conference play in the Big East has passed, and yet again, the outlook has gotten murkier for fans attempting to digest the erratic results produced by the gauntlet of conference play.
If there was any indication of how fragile any semblance of certainty is in the Big East, last Saturday was it.
With the injury to senior quarterback Zach Collaros, Cincinnati saw its BCS opportunity shrink from probable to perhaps. With Collaros, the Bearcats could afford to trail early and rely on his arm to erase deficits by the end of the game – which happened in three Cincinnati victories this season.
Without him, the offense is left in the hands of inexperienced sophomore quarterback Munchie Legaux, who will face some of the hungriest defenses in the conference – not an easy task by any means.
Meanwhile, across the Ohio border in Louisville, Ky., the Cardinals vindicated their claim to conference supremacy by losing 21-14 to Pittsburgh.
The Panthers, who were written off by many after the season-ending injury to star running back Ray Graham, are well in the race for a conference title with just two losses.
Rutgers, who dismantled Pittsburgh with Graham in early October, has lost two conference games by a total of 12 points. One of those losses came at the hands of West Virginia, who looked all but doomed after losing to Louisville and Syracuse.
Syracuse blew the Mountaineers out and appeared to be destined for something special, but since then, the Orange have dropped three consecutive conference games – the last being a 20-point loss to South Florida.
The Bulls have four conference losses, but the last three have been by an average of four points. South Florida has the talent and the momentum to beat any team in the conference – a notion that was on display Saturday during its win over Syracuse.
So, to sum it up: Cincinnati lost to West Virginia, who lost to Syracuse, who lost to South Florida, who lost to Connecticut, who lost to Pittsburgh, who lost to Rutgers, who lost to Louisville.
You following me?
With the confusion and complexity of the tiebreaker that is evolving, Big East commissioner John Marinatto could very well have a heart attack by season's close.
He may end up pulling out a page from "Friday Night Lights" and have a coin flip to decide who represents the Big East in the Orange Bowl.
Maybe they could do it at the Varsity Club. You'd have to think ESPN would cover something like that. I see a revenue opportunity, but that's just me.
Shoot, having the head coaches play rock, paper, scissors would be more efficient than actually playing the games and letting things work themselves out.
The point is, there's no way to tell what is going to happen during the next few weeks in the Big East – and that's a beautiful thing. It's hard to envision a scenario in which this isn't resolved in the last week of the season.
While it's not the easiest thing for fans to watch, it certainly is a lot of fun. Big East football should become must-see television in the last weeks of November.
Before the nation fixes its gaze on the phenomenon that is Big East basketball, it will first have to watch what is arguably the most competitive conference in the country knock itself senseless to determine who emerges as conference champion.
With the future composition of the Big East looming, we'll never see these teams battling against each other in the same fashion – and I wouldn't have their last go-round any other way.