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In which I passive-aggressively defend Big East football

Just a quick response to our SBNation overlord, the esteemed Holly Anderson, who had some blood-rilin' up her sleeve tonight. In response to Head Coach Randy Edsall's Big East chat-boasting on this afternoon, Anderson came in with a rebuttal, entitled "With Apologies To Randy Edsall, The Big East Remains Mostly Harmless". If I had to paraphrase its sub-headline, I would do so thusly:

UConn head coach Randy Edsall's claim that the Big East is "as strong as any conference in the country" is a stupid doodiehead. The claim itself, that is. Randy Edsall's doodiehead status remains up for debate.

Anyway, I don't really want to defend Big East football, because it is what it is: an anachronistic, basketball-dominant league that is lodged firmly in the second tier of college football (if the first tier is to be understood as the Big 12, SEC and Big 10).

But I must, because the league is not nearly as bad as Anderson (or at least the facts that she uses) indicates. First, a fact-checking issue:

"The four teams in minor bowls all managed wins, though only Rutgers gained more than a four-point victory, in a 45-24 blowout of Central Florida in St. Petersburg."

This would be true, except that two of the other three bowl wins (UConn over South Carolina/USF over Northern Illinois) were decisive blowouts. Onward:

"However, the conference has been invited to fewer bowls in the past three years than any other Big Six league."

8 < 10, 11, and 12, by my math. And at least one of those eight teams (Syracuse) has to go 1-6 in the league.

When Edsall spoke so glowingly of the non-conference slates, did he mean to tout their quality in a relative or absolute sense? Every conference plays its share of cupcake games, but he perhaps should wait to preen over a tough schedule for a year when the Huskies aren't facing Texas Southern, Buffalo, and Vanderbilt.

Using last season's final rankings to determine opponent quality for next year is premature, of course. But the above-highlighted teams all have reasonable expectations for continued success this year. The point being, the entire Big East, combined, will play a currently-ranked team six (6) times in 2010. If we add in teams with the potential to perhaps climb into the polls by the time they face a Big East squad (generously: Oregon State, North Carolina, Boston College, and Washington), that number climbs to ten, barely edging out the number of games to be played against teams from below Division I-A (nine).


On an unrelated note, here is the list of teams ranked in the top 25 at the end of last season that find themselves on SEC OOC schedules in 2010:

  • Penn State, Clemson (2X), Georgia Tech, North Carolina, West Virginia, Oregon

Of course, all SEC teams have to play Florida and Alabama seven times each, so they can be excused for playing the same number of currently-ranked teams as the Big East despite having four more teams. The SEC will play 21 OOC games against I-AA teams or MAC/Sun Belt squads (1.75 per team); the Big East will play 17 (2 per team). Both leagues scheduled 10 BCS teams who weren't ranked at the end of last season.

And so on and so forth. I don't even really care how good each conference's schedules are. You can play these games with any conference and frankly, the Big East will always come out looking bad in these comparisons because its teams aren't brand-names.

Here's where I agree with Anderson: The Big East's best teams are not in the same class as the top-tier SEC/Big 12/Big 10 powerhouses. I don't even think Randy Edsall would argue that.

I think it's clear Edsall was trying to homer it up, to be a salesman for his league. Is it a little silly to say that the Big East is "top-to-bottom" as strong as any other league? Sure. Is it sillier to argue that eight months after Florida rocked Cincinnati's world in the Sugar Bowl and didn't call it at the morning after? Of course.

But I also think it's silly to say the Big East is not "nationally competitive" when it performed as good or better than the ACC (4/12 teams in the top 25, highest #10), Pac-10 (2/10 teams in the top 25, highest #11) and Mountain West (3/9 in the top 25, but 4/9 of the league finishing under .500).

Now, who wants to get back to debating precisely how much better Jim Calhoun is compared to Jim Boeheim? I say infinity, but I'm willing to compromise down infinity-minus-three.