Ever since…well…ever, the Big East conference has been largely classified as second tier in FBS college football, and ranked near the bottom, if not at the bottom, of the six BCS conferences.
Recent examples of this can be found before the 2009 season kicked off, when not a single Big East team was ranked in either the AP Top 25 or USA Today Coaches Poll.
When the season was all said and done, each poll had three teams ranked, including one in the top 10 overall. And at various points of the season, the Big East had four ranked teams.
Not to mention, Cincinnati completed their regular season undefeated and was a dark horse in the race towards a BCS National Championship.
People down play the Big East conference season in and season out, but when it comes down to playing actual football games, their on-field production has done the meaningful talking.
Take West Virginia for example.
The Mountaineers smacked the heavily-favored Oklahoma Sooners in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl. They beat Auburn the next fall.
Or the USF Bulls last year, when they upset the Florida State Seminoles on their home turf.
Or the Syracuse Orange, who beat the mighty Notre Dame Fighting Irish in South Bend in 2008.
Or the Cincinnati Bearcats, when they went to Oregon State last year and handled the Beavers with ease.
Or the Pitt Panthers/Connecticut Huskies, who both defeated Notre Dame this past season.
The point is that the Big East has held its own against the upper echelon of CFB, but many will continue to disrespect the conference as a whole.
And while it is immature to legitimately assess the Top 25 teams in CFB heading into the 2010 season, Big East teams can anticipate a similar outcome to the 2009 preseason ranks.
To the coaches and players, this reality is of little concern. It’s just us fans and media people that create the drama to spice up the seemingly much-too-long offseason.
Alas, the Big East football schedule for 2010 was released today, and one cannot help but notice certain key opponents on the Big East platter this fall.
There are certain key opponents that if defeated by a lowly “Big Least” team would certainly generate some much-needed respect for a conference that cannot seem to maintain any.
Here is a look at some key match-ups, starting with opening weekend this fall.
Saturday, September 4 —Connecticut at Michigan.
One of the most successful programs in CFB history will host the pesky UConn Huskies to open their newly expanded stadium.
It’s a tasty match-up for the media during Week One, when most teams chow down on a delicious cupcake or two.
If the Huskies could pull an upset over the Wolverines in what is considered Rich Rodriguez’s last stand as head coach, the conference would generate instant buzz in CFB and send Ann Arbor into hysteria.
Saturday, September 11—South Florida at Florida.
Not much to be said here, other than a Bulls win would be considered one of the greater upsets in recent CFB history.
Thursday, September 23—Miami at Pittsburgh.
Miami had an up and down season in 2009, but the program is believed to be nearing consistent Top 25 placement again.
It won’t be easy for the Hurricanes at Heinz Field, and beating a former Big East member would be sweet revenge in primetime.
Saturday, September 25 (BIG day for the Big East) —Oklahoma at Cincinnati, North Carolina at Rutgers, and West Virginia at LSU.
This matchup might have a similar line as the Bulls/Gators one will have, but the Bearcats will be looking for some payback from the trouncing the Sooners gave them a few seasons prior.
Similarly for the Scarlet Knights, they were embarrassed by the Tar Heels in Piscataway two years ago on a Thursday night.
Greg Schiano would love to stick it to his former boss Butch Davis, and it would give the Scarlet Knights a much needed out of conference win against a quality opponent.
The Mountaineers might have the best shot on this day, especially if Noel Devine can have one of his patented 150 plus yards and multiple touchdown performances. The Tigers offense will be tough to contain.
Here are some other notable Big East out of conference match-ups later this year.
Saturday, October 9—Pittsburgh at Notre Dame.
Saturday, November 27—Boston College at Syracuse AND South Florida at Miami.
The table is set for the Big East to crash the party of college football’s pretentious, old-money “elite” this fall.
And there are enough of these opponents on the schedule that if the Big East can steal a few games, the conference might just get the respect it deserves.