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Question of the Day
In some ways, Big East teams are beating themselves. Many are near the bottom of the FBS in turnover margin, penalties and third-down conversions.
Connecticut leads the conference in total offense at 394 yards per game but is just 53rd in the FBS.
But some players could care less how the conference is viewed.
“At the end of the season, you’ve got wins and losses and nobody says, oh, that win was from this conference, and that was from that conference,” said UConn senior guard Zach Hurd. “We’re just trying to get the wins and if you get enough, everything else takes care of itself.”
Many Big East teams have been unable to consistently replace the talent lost to the NFL. Eighteen Big East players were chosen in this year’s draft, including all four early entries. And blue-chip prospects looking for a dominant league to play in have seen Cincinnati get squashed in a BCS bowl game the last two years.
First-year Cincinnati coach Butch Jones, who also was an assistant coach at West Virginia under Rich Rodriguez, doesn’t see a talent difference between the Big East and other BCS conferences. Rather, he and Marinatto point to the league’s aggressive scheduling.
Big East teams must play five non-conference games every year and getting home games against teams from other BCS conferences is a coup. Seven of the 11 games against such foes so far this season were on the road.
“We’ve obviously encouraged our schools to schedule up,” Marinatto said. “We’ve been competitive for the most part in those games and if for a bounce of the ball one way or the other, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation.”
Even games against lower-tier opponents were no guaranteed wins.
Ask Cincinnati about Fresno State, a 28-14 Bulldogs win. Ask Connecticut about Temple, a 30-16 Owls win.
“We lost a lot of seniors last year,” Connecticut coach Randy Edsall said. “We just don’t have maybe as much experience as we had. So far this year it’s just been a situation where (Big East teams) haven’t fared as well. And that’s the first time this has happened in probably some time.”
He’s referring to 2005, the first season after Miami and Virginia Tech left for the ACC. The Big East went 19-13 in non-conference play during that regular season. But West Virginia squashed that criticism by beating Georgia 38-35 in the Sugar Bowl and earning a Top 10 finish.
The Big East was great in non-conference play the next four years, and the Mountaineers beat Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl following the 2007 season.
But few remember the past. It’s what they’ve done lately. And lately, it’s been a disaster.
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