Big East

College Football Big East Preview: Week 14

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We’ve discussed the possibility of TCU joining the Big East in this spot before, but now it’s official. Starting in 2012, the Horned Frogs will join the conference in all sports (but especially football).

The Big East is bringing in TCU for two main reasons. First of all, they don’t want their members to have to be responsible for scheduling a fifth out of conference game since there are only eight squads in the BE as it is currently constituted. Second, they want to bolster a conference that has been consistently ripped on by just about everyone.

TCU is joining the BE to become part of the in crowd. They don’t want to have to scratch and claw to find quality opponents in the hopes of having an unbeaten season and crashing the BCS with the national title game being a far off dream. In the Big East, TCU has just a bit more room for error. They can lose a game or two (or three or four in the BE) and still be very much in play for a BCS spot, a luxury they are not afforded at the moment.

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Ultimately though, every big time team wants to win the national title. Make no mistake, TCU is a big time team. This move is largely because TCU wants to compete for national titles.

The ironic thing is that if TCU were in the BE this season, they would be in negligibly better shape in their quest for a national title. According to the Sagarin Ratings, the Mountain West (TCU’s current home) is the number eight conference, while the BE is just number seven.

The Big East is far more balanced, with just one team ranked out of the top 100 (Rutgers), while the MWC has four squads ranked 110th or worse. There’s no doubt that the bottom feeders like New Mexico and Colorado State are dragging down TCU in the rankings, but the MWC also has afforded more opportunities for quality wins than the BE would have. Outside of TCU, the MWC has four teams in the top 60 while the BE has just three (none better than #30).

There’s no doubt that TCU will benefit from the increased revenue and TV exposure in the BE, but if they’re looking to compete for titles, the BE is going to have to improve.

Anyway, we have three games in the BE this weekend and each involves one of the three remaining realistic contenders for the BE crown…let’s take a look.

Game of the Week

UConn @ South Florida – Saturday 8 PM, ESPN2

There’s no guarantee this is the best game of the weekend, but there is a guarantee that everything depends on the outcome. I didn’t think I’d be writing this a month ago, but UConn has its fate in its own hands by virtue of their head to head wins over Pitt and West Virginia. USF is a game behind all three and could tie them and Syracuse with losses by Pitt and WVU, meaning a five way tie is technically in play, but I’m not even going to try to ponder that possibility because I’d like my brain to remain unexploded.

UConn has made a run this month behind RB Jordan Todman, who’s the leader in the clubhouse for BE player of the year. He is going to be the focus of both UConn’s offensive game plan and USF’s defense. USF is a tough team, especially at home and will be looking to play spoiler.

The big question for USF entering this game is the health of starting QB BJ Daniels, who was replaced by freshman Bobby Eveld when Daniels injured his quad. USF may not be quite as scary without a healthy Daniels, but Eveld was a bit of a steadying force in Daniels’ absence.

Can’t Miss Games

#24 West Virginia @ Rutgers – Saturday 12 PM, ABC

This game is next in the pecking order because West Virginia is the heir to the throne should UConn take a loss. If they are tied with Pitt, they’ll get the BCS bid since they just beat the Panthers last week. The nice thing for the Mountaineers is that they are playing the worst team in the conference, a team that also happens to be bottoming out at the moment. I see no reason that WVU will not take care of business.

Last weekend against UofL, Rutgers couldn’t stop the Cards’ offense or the Cards’ pass rush, giving up nine sacks of QB Chas Dodd. Considering that WVU is fresh off of smoking Pitt, one of the better teams in the BE, I don’t think the Scarlet Knights stand much of a chance.

Pitt @ Cincinnati – Saturday 12 PM, ESPN

Pitt needs some help. They need to win and they need also for West Virginia and UConn to falter this weekend, which is a bit far fetched.

The Panthers had a rough time last week, getting absolutely shut down by West Virginia. The good news is that Cincinnati is up next because the Bearcats have given up 37, 38, and 38 points in their last three games. Cincinnati also doesn’t have anything other than pride to play for, because with their loss last week, they are out of contention for bowl eligibility. Dion Lewis and Ray Graham should enjoy themselves.