Can Big East football rebound from ugly start?
For two weeks, as bad as things had gone for Big East football, its fans had the slight consolation of knowing the ACC was faring even worse in its early nonconference games. Then came Thursday night, and Cincinnati struggled to keep up with N.C. State, falling behind 30-7 before scoring twice in the final seven minutes of what ended up a 30-19 loss.
With that loss, the Big East drops to 0-5 this season against teams from other BCS automatic-qualifier conferences -- only one of those losses (USF at No. 8 Florida) was to a ranked opponent. That doesn't include Pittsburgh's loss to Utah or Cincinnati's loss to Fresno State -- add those in, and the Big East is just 3-7 against I-A teams, hanging its hat on Syracuse beating Akron, West Virginia escaping Marshall in overtime and Rutgers rallying to win at Florida International.
So after going 9-7 in the regular season against BCS opponents last season, the Big East is 0-5, and that mark could get worse this weekend, with Louisville going to Oregon State and West Virginia in position to get that elusive first win at home against Maryland.
The league has a chance to make up a lot of ground next weekend, with four games that would certainly count as quality wins: Pittsburgh hosts Miami on a Thursday night, then Rutgers hosts North Carolina, Cincinnati hosts Oklahoma and West Virginia travels to LSU. Could easily be an 0-4 week for the Big East, which direly needs a win or three to avoid more talk about whether the league deserves its automatic BCS bid. (The league's defending champ and preseason favorite losing to teams from the WAC and Mountain West, respectively, haven't helped that issue.)
After next weekend, there aren't too many more opportunities for the Big East to help its status nationally until the bowl season. Connecticut hosts Vanderbilt and Pittsburgh goes to Notre Dame in October, and then USF goes to Miami on Thanksgiving weekend, the same day Syracuse plays host to Boston College. We'll continue to update the conference jockeying as the season progresses. ...