Big East, WVU and conference realignment

THE BIG EAST had a relatively big week in football.It's the first time I've been able to write that since, well, Tiger Woods was espoused.The uprising wasn't as earth shattering as, say, Maryland's new helmets. (Did Jim Morrison design those?) The league only has two teams ranked in the new Associated Press Top 25 poll. The Southeastern Conference and Pac 12 have six, while the Big Ten has five.But, hey, it's a start. Big East teams won all of their games over the long weekend and posted one impressive victory - South Florida's 23-20 decision over Notre Dame at South Bend.The deal with the Big East is this: Conference teams must, especially with their collectively weak reputation, capitalize on non-conference opportunities.Please understand league teams didn't fall flat last season because of "stupid" losses. There were actually only a couple. (Some conference wins over lesser programs weren't always pretty, but ...)The reason the Big East was panned last season was because it didn't take advantage of opportunities against quality programs.Here's a brief recap:
  • Cincinnati lost at Fresno State and North Carolina. The Bearcat's big non-conference "win" was a 31-29 home loss to Oklahoma.
  • Connecticut lost at Michigan and defeated Vanderbilt. (OK, including Vandy is a stretch.) The Huskies had a "stupid" loss at Temple. It's "stupid" if you finish as a league representative to a BCS bowl game, which UConn did.
  • Louisville lost at home to Kentucky, on the road to Oregon State and defeated Memphis at home. Oregon State finished 5-7 and lost the first game of this season to the Sacramento State Hornets. I kid you not.
  • Pitt lost at Utah, at home vs. Miami and at Notre Dame.
  • Rutgers lost at North Carolina, defeated Army and had a "stupid" loss at home to Tulane, which finished 4-8.
  • South Florida lost at Florida and otherwise played Stony Brook and Stony Brook-like cupcakes until defeating Clemson in the Meineke Bowl.
  • Syracuse lost at Washington and also played 'cakes until beating Kansas State in the Pinstripe Bowl.
  • WVU defeated Maryland and lost at LSU.
  • Today, though, as predicted by WVU athletic director Oliver Luck by the way, a crack of sunshine has appeared. WVU is ranked No. 19 and South Florida is ranked No. 22.And this weekend there are more opportunities for the league. Rutgers is at North Carolina. The Tar Heels are somewhat in turmoil, but a Rutgers victory there would be notable. Also, Cincinnati is playing at Tennessee. I still believe UC could be a surprise this season and the oddsmakers apparently agree. The Vols were but 61/2-point favorites on Tuesday.
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  • While on the subject of Big East non-conference games, the biggest for the league is undoubtedly the LSU at West Virginia contest set for Sept. 24.According to league sources, that game is looking more and more like it will be played in the evening, possibly as an ABC game. If not, it will certainly be on ESPN or ESPN2.
    It helped in that regard that LSU defeated Oregon this past weekend and moved to No. 2 in the AP poll.
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  • And finally . . .The next step in the conference realignment saga is set to be taken, if it hasn't by the time you read this column.The Southeastern Conference's decision on Texas A&M is expected to be made today. The next step then surrounds Oklahoma and Texas. If the Big 12 seems to be crumbling, both may hop to the Pac 12. Oklahoma State and Texas Tech are also interested there.The Big East is sitting back and waiting. If the Big 12 begins to crumble, the Big East could take in some refugees, like Missouri, Kansas and Kansas State.What one must keep in mind, however, is something unexpected always seems to surface in expansion stories. Penn State to the Big Ten? Utah and Colorado to the Pac-then-10? Most believed the ACC would grab Syracuse, Boston College and Miami from the Big East. Virginia Tech?What we know is at least one decision is near, if not here. Hold on for the rest of the story.Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, or follow him at   
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