Will a College Football Playoff Mean the End of the Big East?
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For the past few years, the Big East has been considered a distant sixth in the BCS conference pecking order. Given the recent defections of some of the league's top schools such as West Virginia, Syracuse and Pittsburgh, that doesn't seem like it's about to change.
The good news for the league is that there are reinforcements on the way like Boise State, Houston and others, who will hopefully be able to keep the league relevant in the years to come.
The Big East plans to expand to 12 teams and split into two divisions for the 2013 season, but given the current state of college athletics, the future seems to be a bit hazy, as there's always the constant threat that realignment could cause some massive shakeups.
Now that the new four-team playoff has been introduced, it should be interesting to see how the college football landscape begins to take shape.
The question is, will there be a place for the Big East in college football in the years to come?
Is the Current League Competition Good Enough to Get a Playoff Bid?
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Once Syracuse and Pittsburgh depart for the ACC after the 2012 season, the Big East will be left with six current BCS teams: Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, Rutgers, South Florida, and Temple. (The Owls will compete in the Big East this season.) Plus, there will be the addition of new members Boise State, Central Florida, Houston, Memphis, San Diego State and SMU.
That gives the league 12 teams to build around for the future, but the question is, will any team be able to springboard their success in the conference into a playoff bid once the new four-team format finally commences?
Teams like Boise State, Louisville, Rutgers and South Florida appear ready to compete on the national scene in the coming years, but will the strength of schedule that they face in the Big East be good enough to impress the selection committee?
Theoretically, even if a team runs the table in the Big East and manages to go 12-0, how would they fare when put up against a potential undefeated or one-loss SEC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 or ACC team when the final votes are cast?
The competition in the Big East would clearly be weaker than in any of the other five BCS conferences, and it would likely take a supremely dominant performance to even be considered for a potential playoff bid.
What If Louisville Leaves for the Big 12?
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The Big 12 isn't truly the Big "12" anymore, as the conference currently features just 10 teams. However, you have to expect that league officials will be looking to expand even further for the future and get the conference back to 12 teams in order to have a conference championship game.
One of the conference's top targets could be Louisville, a school that expressed interest in joining during the last phase of realignment.
The Cardinals are now one of the premier teams in the Big East, but they could be lured away by the potential to earn more money off the Big 12's lucrative television deal.
If Louisville ends up leaving, the Big East would be in for a world of hurt.
What If the ACC Snatches Up More Big East Teams?
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The ACC has already stolen away Syracuse and Pittsburgh from the Big East, but the conference may not be done poaching schools just yet.
If the ACC loses one of its top schools like Florida State or Clemson to a conference such as the Big 12, the league would likely be desperate to fill the void. Big East teams such as Rutgers and Connecticut could be potential targets.
If the Big East were to lose the Scarlet Knights or the Huskies, or in a worst-case scenario, both teams, the league would then be without two of its most prestigious schools. Obviously, that would have a major effect on the future viability of the conference.
What If Boise State Gets Cold Feet?
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At this time last year, TCU was all set to become a new member of the Big East. However, once the fall arrived, the realignment dominoes started to fall, and the Horned Frogs ultimately ended up with a better deal to join the Big 12.
Could the same thing happen with new potential Big East member Boise State?
The Broncos have already made it clear that they're leaving the Mountain West after this season with every intention of joining the Big East in 2013. Nevertheless, as we saw with TCU last year, nothing is guaranteed in this unstable climate of college football realignment.
Boise State probably won't get the offer that it's looking for from the Pac-12, as the school and the market just doesn't fit the league's criteria.
Still, if the realignment wave crashes down on college football again, and current prominent Big East teams such as Louisville, Rutgers or Connecticut decide to move elsewhere, it would seem even more pointless for the Broncos to make the move to the Big East.
From a financial standpoint, moving from the Mountain West to the Big East will benefit the program and the school. However, given the new playoff format, you have to wonder if Boise State wouldn't be better off staying in a smaller conference, beating up on lesser teams in the hopes of going undefeated and trying to get the fourth spot in the new four-team playoff format.
So What Does It All Mean?
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Just a few months ago, the Big East was a league that was on life support and the future certainly looked bleak after prominent schools such as West Virginia, Syracuse and Pittsburgh all found new, more stable homes in other conferences.
You have to give credit to the powers that be, though, for coming up with a potential plan that could keep the league moving forward, even though it's not the most ideal scenario.
Still, with so many variables involved in college football realignment, there's no telling how the college football landscape will look once the 2014 season finally rolls around.
The introduction of the new four-team playoff plan and the new bowl system throws a big wrench into the equation, and there's no telling how the Big East will eventually fit in. It appears doubtful that the league will still be treated as an equal partner among the six current BCS conferences.
Right now, the Big East may seem to be in stable condition, but the way things are headed, there's definitely a possibility that the league could end up collapsing in the years to come.