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State of the conference: Big East

Posted by ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach

Left for dead after Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech bolted for the ACC in 2004, the Big East is flourishing like never before.

West Virginia has beaten two champions of other BCS leagues in the last three years -- SEC champ Georgia in the 2006 Sugar Bowl and Big 12 champ Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl last season. Louisville beat ACC champion Wake Forest in the 2007 Orange Bowl.

Last season, the Big East posted a winning record in bowl games for the second straight season and six of the league's eight teams were ranked in the top 25 at some point during the 2007 season.

Heading into the 2008 season, the Mountaineers are again considered a potential national championship contender -- even without coach Rich Rodriguez, who left for Michigan.

"I just hope it's the right job for Rich," Big East commissioner Michael Tranghese said. "I told Rich this: 'A long time down the road, I'll never forget how important that West Virginia victory [in the 2006 Sugar Bowl] was to the league.' It took a Michigan to get him away. It wasn't Alabama. If you get a chance to go to a Michigan or USC, those are marquee jobs."

As Tranghese enters his final football season leading the Big East, he hopes longtime members such as Pittsburgh and Syracuse can improve.

"It's an identity thing," Tranghese said. "They've been very good members."

The Orange are 7-28 in coach Greg Robinson's three seasons. He enters this season under the microscope after going 2-10 in 2007.

"They want to win more," Tranghese said. "Greg wants to win more, and I'd like to see them win more. Are they better than when Greg got there? I think so."

Much of the league is better since the Big East realigned before the 2005-06 season. South Florida, which climbed as high as No. 2 in the national rankings last season, might be poised for another breakout season. Rutgers has gone to three straight bowl games after playing in just one during its first 131 seasons of football. Last year, Connecticut finished 9-4 and shared the Big East title with West Virginia, the Huskies' best season since moving to Division I-A.

Tranghese said one of his goals during his last year as Big East commissioner is to improve the league's postseason opportunities. The Big East has partnerships with seven bowl games, including an automatic spot in the BCS for the league champion.

"It's a big thing and some of it will get done before I leave," Tranghese said.