Dead in the Water: Is Big East Football on a Path for Football Obsolescence?

Matthew CohenContributor IOctober 28, 2011

MORGANTOWN, WV - SEPTEMBER 24: A fan holds up a sign while cheering during the game between the West Virginia Mountaineers and the Louisiana State University Tigers on September 24, 2011 at Mountaineer Field in Morgantown, West Virginia.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

As conference realignment continues to rattle the landscape of major college football, the Big East is fighting an uphill battle for its life.

On September 19, the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) announced that they and the Syracuse Orange and Pittsburgh Panthers had come to an agreement for the two schools to join as all-sports members. 

Today, ESPN reported that West Virginia, arguably the Big East's only true football power, has been formally invited to join the Big 12.

As members continue to flee like rats from a sinking ship, it is clear the Big East is in the midst of instability—similar to 2003 (possibly worse) when Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech left for the ACC. 

Though the conference is facing hardship off the field, its struggles on the field may be the most important matter. Over the last three years, the Big East champions have failed to win a BCS Bowl game.

To add insult, Cincinnati and UConn lost by an average of 27 points in the 2010 Sugar Bowl and the 2011 Fiesta Bowl, respectively.

When judging the body of work for a conference as a whole, it is very important to examine their performance against non-conference opponents. Through eight weeks of the 2011-'12 college football season, the results have been anything but stellar for the Big East. 

Because of weak non-conference scheduling across the board, there has been little opportunity to judge the Big East members against ranked opponents.

In two games this season, the Big East has one win and one loss. The one loss came at the hands of the current BCS No. 1 LSU, who beat West Virginia 47-21 in Week 4. 

The only win for the Big East against a ranked opponent came in Week 1 against a very mediocre Notre Dame team. USF took down the then No. 16 Fighting Irish in South Bend 23-20, quickly punting the Irish out of the top 25, where they have remained. 

The Big East boasts a respectable 25-13 record against non-conference opponents this season, good for a winning percentage of 67. However, when you delve into the details, it quickly becomes apparent how misleading this figure is to the total quality of play. 

Only four of the eight Big East teams have wins vs above .500 non-conference opponents, adding up to a total of seven wins, an average of .88 wins per team. Overall, the conference boasts a 7-16 record against above .500 teams, giving them a winning percentage of just under 44.

Though this number doesn't seem too bad, the majority of these wins came against mid to low level conference opponents with records of just over .500, including Ball State, UTEP and Ohio University.

With their only top-25 team leaving for the Big 12 (West Virginia, No. 25), the Big East is in dire need of a solid recruit to bolster their football ranks. As of now, teams such as Boise State, UCF, SMU and Air Force are in talks with the conference to help replace Syracuse, Pitt and West Virginia. 

Boise State could be the white knight the conference needs, finally providing a viable BCS candidate in the Big East.

However, if talks break down because of their desire to join as an all-sports member, the Big East could very easily lose their automatic bid and slip into college football obscurity.