Two straight years, two straight eye-popping BCS performances for schools representing the Big East.
And yet, the nagging feeling remains.
Oh, what could have been for this league.
Louisville smacked Florida 33-23 in the Allstate Sugar Bowl on Tuesday night. Last year, West Virginia ran up 70 on Clemson in the Discover Orange Bowl. The Big East became the surprising toast of the BCS season. Yet, West Virginia is no longer in the Big East. Louisville is headed out the door, too.
That's the shame of it. Just look at what this league has accomplished:
An 8-7 BCS record. That includes wins in five of the past eight BCS games. Only the SEC and Pac-12 have higher winning percentages. The Big Ten? 12-14. The ACC? 3-13. The Big 12? 9-10.
Seven straight seasons with a winning bowl record.
Since 1998, the Big East is 46-28 during bowl season -- the best winning percentage of any league.
This year, a perfect 4-0 mark against the SEC. One more chance to keep that mark intact, as Pitt takes on Ole Miss in the BBVA Compass Bowl on Saturday.
Yet, those eight BCS wins belong to teams either no longer in the Big East or leaving the Big East. That 4-0 mark against the SEC? Louisville, Rutgers and Syracuse have those wins. They are leaving, too. It becomes more and more apparent during bowl season that the Big East had the right teams in place. They just had the wrong leadership in place to keep this league together.
It is too bad, really. Because the Big East has played some pretty good football on the national stage. Then we are reminded the Big East is a league falling apart.
Louisville completely and utterly outplayed and outcoached Florida. A team that went into the game with one of the worst strengths of schedules in the country shredded a team from the conference most everybody calls the best in the land. They did it with more physicality, a better quarterback and a rising coach with something to prove just about every time he takes the field.
Those of us who follow the Big East know how much talent Louisville has on its roster. Many of us were absolutely stunned when Louisville jumped out to a 9-0 start and barely cracked the Top 10. "They play no one," critics said. I firmly believe the Big East misperception played a major role in that disrespect.
"People ... they say don't talk about the Big East, they don't play anybody," coach Charlie Strong said after the win. "I hope tonight they opened up their eyes. That just shows it doesn't matter. There's so much parity in college football right now, who is to say who is the best team out there?"
Well how about now? Louisville played the No. 3 team in the nation and won. No excuses for Florida. They weren't motivated? They didn't care? Please. That is selling Louisville short. The Cardinals flat out won. They showed once again the Big East knows how to play football, knows how to build programs, knows how to bring in talent.
The league will have a legitimate Heisman Trophy contender on its hands in Teddy Bridgewater in 2013, and what should be a preseason Top 10 team. And there is the rub. Louisville most likely will be playing its final season in the Big East.
What could have been indeed.