On the Big East and Other Conferences
Well, there you have it. The doubting has begun in earnest. With UL now the #3 team in the land, perfectly poised to play the winner of Ohio State-Michigan should they run the table, the detractors have reared their ugly mugs. To them I say, “Oh, give it a rest.”
Instead of going on a lengthy diatribe, I’m just gonna provide us with a nice, neat list, reminiscent of the lists at ESPN.com.
Most Overrated Conference: Big 12.
I mean, honestly! This used to be the group that could give the SEC a run for its money. You had some of the most powerful teams in the land west of the Mississippi here. Surely you have not forgotten the heyday of Nebraska, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, and Texas A&M? When the Big 8 and Southwestern Conferences joined, shockwaves were heard throughout the nation. The first ever “superconference.” Not only that, Iowa State and Oklahoma State had a couple of good teams during that time as well. But these days the Big 12 is quickly becoming a one-horse town, with Texas being the only team worth its salt in the past few years.
Runner-Up: Pac-10. The true one-trick pony of college football. But even their pony is overrated.
Most Underrated Conference: Big East.
Need I say more? This is a conference that was toughened by having Miami, Virginia Tech, and Boston College in its ranks, and a good Syracuse during the pre-, during, and post-Donovan McNabb era. With the departure of the big three to the Awful College Conference, the other schools have finally been allowed to shine. This league is an up-and-comer, and having powerful Louisville and West Virginia teams that are seemingly poised to dominate the next few years can only benefit. Rutgers going unbeaten thus far is a giant bonus, as is a resurgent Pittsburgh. All the Big East needs to do is for every team to schedule at least one game against BCS conference teams each year and win. Scheduling two wouldn’t hurt.
Runner-Up: Southeastern Conference. They don’t win this one cause they win the next one.
Most Disrespected Conference: Southeastern Conference.
Search your feelings. You know it to be true. This is the roughest, toughest, rootin’ tootin’ hi-falutin’ conference in all of college football. No team in any of the other conferences (with the possible exceptions of Texas and Oklahoma) could thrive in the SEC. The excellence of the SEC is unparallelled. Yet this excellence brings a double whammy. On any given weekend, any given team could lose to any other given team. The league is that good. You may have noticed that Vanderbilt isn’t even a “gimme” anymore. That ought to be your first indication of the true strength of SEC football. I am the first to agree that a one-loss SEC team is undoubtedly better than any other one-loss team in the land, and quite possibly better than some of the unbeatens out there. But I need look no further than an unbeaten Auburn getting snubbed for the national title game over the media darling USC a couple years ago to make my case.
Runner-Up: Big East. Yet this year their critics have been forced to eat crow, and instead of chewing and swallowing, the critics are trying to spit it back out.
Most Underachieving Conference: Big Ten.
What?!?!? Indeed. The Big 10 and the SEC are the two best football conferences in the land the past 10 years. But the Big 10 has underachieved. Ohio State has been the only consistent performer, stringing together a few 10 win seasons and a national championship, and potentially may tack on another. The rest of the conference, in contrast, has underperformed. Michigan has not been themselves since splitting that national title when Brian Griese was there, and it has been refreshing to see their resurgence. Penn State has been the biggest underachiever of them all. Michigan State has been, well, painful to watch. This is the second-best conference in the land, and they need to get their act together.
Most Deserving of Criticism Conference: Pac-10.
Once again, the Pac-10 is a one-trick pony: USC. This conference isn’t even a shadow of itself in its heyday. True, they beat up on each other in much the same way as the SEC, but the talent and intensity level is nowhere near the SEC or the Big 10. “But USC blew out Arkansas!” you complain. So what? It was a season opener. I wonder who would win now that Arkansas has run the table since then. The most glaring example of this award goes to California. Ranked 9th in the land at the start of the season, they were solidly trounced by Tennessee in a game that wasn’t even close. If an earthquake caused the west coast to fall into the sea, college football would miss the teams, of course, but would carry on without missing a beat.
And lastly, Most Pitiful Conference: ACC.
I don’t think I need to explain this one too much. When Wake Forest, either a perennial doormat or middle-to-bottom-of-the-pack team, is poised to win the conference, you know something don’t smell right. What is wrong with Miami and Florida State? Even Virginia Tech has been losing to lesser teams. Granted, it is nice to see some old-school programs like Georgia Tech and Clemson re-emerge from the doldrums, but having both the ‘Noles and the ‘Canes be in danger of missing out on bowls and potentially having losing seasons? Ridiculous. I used to say that the biggest reason for the decline of Florida State and Miami was the fact that they joined conferences with substandard competition. My theory has been soundly proven the past few years. After trouncing the competition for a few years, they quit playing like the great teams they were and started playing like 5th graders. LSU shellacking Miami in the bowls last year ought to be Exhibit A. This season is Exhibit B.
And so, ladies and gentlemen, I give you a list of why Louisville’s detractors oughta hush. With that, I’m going to work.