Can USF save the Big East? Can anyone?
Wow. Watching UNC-Rutgers, and the Tar Heels, a year removed from losing badly to USF, are destroying Rutgers 38-6 in the third quarter. And Rutgers isn't supposed to be the best team in the Big East by any means, but neither is UNC in its league. The ACC had been sharing some of the really-bad-BCS-league burden these past two weeks, and now a lot of that shifts to the Big East.
So assuming there isn't a massive turnaround at Rutgers tonight. the Big East will be 3-8 against I-A opponents this season, and 0-4 against other BCS conference schools. And of those seven losses, NONE of them are by fewer than 10 points. Look at the teams the Big East has lost to: Bowling Green, Northwestern, Kentucky, Fresno State, Akron, Oklahoma and East Carolina. I'd wager, going into the season, a conservative pick would have had the Big East go at least 4-3 in those games.
That means USF is playing for the Big East's reputation when the Bulls play No. 13 Kansas. A win gives the league a win it can hang its hat on -- right now, the best win the entire conference can boast is ... beating Central Florida in overtime? Beating former league doormat Temple ... in overtime? Pittsburgh beating Buffalo -- in regulation! -- by 11 points? Those are the three I-A wins, so rank them however you want.
Win Friday night, and USF won't have to play another team that's even getting a vote in the AP poll until Connecticut -- they have one vote-point right now -- and then No. 25 West Virginia. There are still road games, definite hurdles, potential losses by all means, but the Bulls will be even more of favorites in their next eight games than they were before the rest of the league gave up winning meaningful games.
Lose, and you'll start hearing about the Big East the way you did in 2005 -- when Syracuse loses badly to Penn State, if Connecticut loses to Virginia, then the league will be 0-7 against BCS opponents. Then comes the next week: Louisville vs. Kansas State, West Virginia at Colorado, Connecticut vs. Baylor, Iowa at Pittsburgh. How many of those four are wins?