Adding an L
by Bill Glose, 10/19/01
So far this year, the Big East is an unimpressive 16-10 against out-of-conference opponents, a 61.5% win ratio. That ranks dead last among the major conferences (Big 12 is 87.1%; PAC 10 is 82.6%; SEC is 76.2%; ACC is 70%; Big 10 is 68%). As the Big East adds checkmarks to the right side of the Win-Loss column, the conference will have to endure another L being added, one that last year’s stellar OOC play almost erased. It’s an L that sportscasters and rival fans have added whenever mentioning the conference in years past, and one that will most likely rear its ugly head in the near future. It’s the L in "Big Least."
Last year, the Big East had its best OOC record ever with a 75% win ratio. They capped off the great season with an even better bowl performance, finishing with the best record (4-1) among major conferences. By all indications, 2001 projected to be a spectacular season. But several of the mid-level programs have failed to live up to their billing this year, with the most notable drop off belonging to Pittsburgh.
Even though Pittsburgh provided the conference’s sole bowl loss last year (losing 29-37 to Iowa State), everyone still predicted that they’d push VT and Miami to make a run for the crown. They have an excellent coach, a high-octane offense, and last year’s Biletnikoff winner running routes for them. But none of that is working for them this year. They need to do something different, anything to spark a change, even if that means switching from high-octane to diesel. They need someone to step up in their rushing attack. At present, two of their top three rushers are quarterbacks. This year, they’ve amassed a 1-4 record, falling to the likes of 1-A newcomer South Florida. For them to make it to a bowl, they must win 5 of their remaining 6 games.
That’s why the Big East situation is so grim right now – the bleak bowl outlook. Good news earlier this year – a new Big East bowl – might end up being bad news if the conference can’t fill the slot. The Tangerine Bowl allied itself with the Big East, creating a fifth spot for the conference. But what if the conference can’t produce five bowl eligible teams? The media would go nuts, and Big Least would be bandied about more than ever before.
Right now, only Tech has secured eligibility, having won its first six games. Miami, still needing one more win, is a lock for a top bowl. The next best bet is Boston College. With a 4-2 record, they are closer to bowl eligibility than Syracuse, even though the Orangemen have one more win. Both teams still need two more wins, but BC has already played Tech, making its remaining schedule slightly easier.
Third place Syracuse, at 5-2, seems to be in a good position, but that’s where the problems start. They played an extra game this year (Kickoff Classic against Georgia Tech), so they need to win at least 7 games this year. They still have to play VT and Miami, so if they lose both of those, they will need to win two of their last three games just to be eligible. The Orangemen have a history of playing strong until they get a few losses, then they trip into a late-season flop. They are riding a current five game win streak, including an impressive victory over Auburn, so I’ll give them credit to win at least two of those three games (Temple, West Virginia, and Boston College), all of which are played in the Dome.
Rutgers (1-5) is a lost cause. Temple (2-3) and West Virginia (2-4) still have outside shots, but each would need to score upsets against conference opponents Syracuse and Pittsburgh. However, if either of them scored upsets against Syracuse, they could put the Orange out of
contention. To quote Homer Simpson: "D’oh!"
The perfect situation for the Big East would be for Pittsburgh to suddenly become good, and win five of their last six games. If they do that, then the Big East would still have five bowl eligible teams, and save some face this year. For the Panthers, everything hinges on this weekend’s game against BC. This weekend’s match-up will either end their season or give them the hope they need to drive on. If they win that one, they still need to win four of their last five games – against Temple, Virginia Tech, Rutgers, West Virginia, and UAB – something that would be doable after a victory against the Eagles.
However, if that doesn’t pan out, then Big East fans might have to do the unthinkable – cheer for Notre Dame (2-3). As distasteful as it sounds, the conference might need Notre Dame to bail them out. I, too, love to bask in the burning embers of the once great Notre Dame program, but their bowl tie-ins might save the conference this year. Normally, I cheer for them to lose every game they play, but thinking in Big East Terms, this might be the year I pull for them to win. ND has ties with several of the Big East bowl contracts, so if the Irish take one of the bowl bids this year, they may actually help the conference out for once. If a bowl had to take an ‘at-large’ team to fill a Big East void, the media would feast on that for years to come. And worse than the Irish filling a Big East slot (please make it the Insight.com bowl!) would be the jeers of sportscasters nationwide, tittering as they add an L.
Bill Glose is the editor of the literary journal, Virginia Adversaria. His fiction has been accepted for publication in four countries and he was recently named the winner of the 2001 F. Scott Fitzgerald Short Story Contest. One of his stories is currently online at Short Stories Magazine (http://www.shortstoriesmagazine.com/fall.htm).