You won't find a bigger public proponent of the Big East than Bill Stewart.
The West Virginia coach pumps up the league at every opportunity and even brings a book of positive stats about the conference's performance to the annual Big East media day event. But even Stewart says this week could have an impact on the league's reputation.
"It's a long season, but this is a big week for notoriety," Stewart said Monday. "Us winning some of these games will surely put a bright light on our league."
Simply put, the Big East could use some light after a pretty dark first month. The conference is just 4-9 against FBS opponents and only 1-6 against BCS conference teams, with West Virginia's win over Maryland the lone win. In the latest conference rankings by ESPN Stats & Information, the Big East ranks eighth, behind the ACC, Mountain West and WAC.
That poor start puts a different spin on the Week 4 slate. Before the season, this looked like the biggest nonconference week in the history of the Big East. Take a look at the high-profile matchups:
Miami at Pittsburgh (Thursday night)
West Virginia at LSU
Oklahoma at Cincinnati
North Carolina at Rutgers
It seemed like the Big East equivalent of Super Bowl week. And the talk was, this would be the week that the league could show the nation what it had.
Unfortunately, losses -- on both sides -- have dimmed the outlook for this week. Pitt lost its opener at Utah and Miami got blown out at Ohio State. Cincinnati is just 1-2 and will be a major underdog at Paul Brown Stadium. North Carolina is 0-2 and dealing with mass suspensions and an internal scandal, while Rutgers has been unimpressive despite starting 2-0.
The one matchup that lives up to its preseason hype is West Virginia and LSU, which is also the only one of the four games to feature two ranked teams.
Still, the Big East can earn back some of the respect it lost with a good showing this week. And for a change, three of the four games are on league turf. Eleven of the 13 games against FBS opponents have come on the road already this season, including five of the seven showdowns against fellow BCS opponents.
There won't be many more chances for the Big East to win notice outside of conference play after this week. Pitt still travels to Notre Dame, South Florida is at Miami and Syracuse ends the year at Boston College. But that's about it.
So this is still a huge week for the Big East. Just not the way we once saw it.