Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Final 2010 Big East power rankings
By Brian Bennett
Now that bowl season is complete and the 2010 campaign is officially over, it's time to rank the Big East teams for the final occasion. A parity-filled season didn't gain much more clarity from the bowls; four teams finished with identical 8-5 records, and none will make any of the final top 25s.
The top six teams could all beat each other and really could be placed in any number of different orders. But here is my best attempt to judge the league based on overall body of work, taking into account how each team performed down the stretch:
1. Connecticut (8-5): The Huskies were blown out in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl as many predicted. Still, they won the league fair and square and thus deserve the top spot.
2. West Virginia (9-4): A disappointing finish for the Mountaineers, who lost to NC State 23-7 in the Champs Sports Bowl, ruining their chances of a 10-win season and a Top 25 final ranking. You have to believe the coaching turmoil, the injury to Brandon Hogan and the suspension of starting center Joe Madsen all played big roles in the bowl defeat, but West Virginia still should have played better than that.
3. Pittsburgh (8-5): We're ranking teams here, not athletic departments. The Panthers won a share of the Big East title and then somehow dismantled Kentucky in the BBVA Compass Bowl despite all their coaching drama. This team had too much talent to finish just 8-5.
4. South Florida (8-5): I really liked the way this team was playing down the stretch, and the Bulls were blowing Clemson out of the Meineke Car Care Bowl before the Tigers tacked on a couple of late touchdowns. USF went 5-2 in its final seven games, with the two losses coming by a combined 10 points.
5. Syracuse (8-5): It was great to see the Orange win a bowl game in their first postseason trip since 2004, even if it was aided by a controversial call. It was even better to see the Orange offense score 36 points against an admittedly poor Kansas State defense. Doug Marrone led a breakthrough season, and Syracuse looks like a program on the rise.
6. Louisville (7-6): Speaking of on the rise, Charlie Strong has Louisville positioned to be a Big East power once again in a couple of years with the way he's recruiting. The Cardinals maximized their potential this season, beating Southern Miss to clinch an unexpected winning campaign in Strong's first year.
7. Cincinnati (4-8): The Bearcats dropped five of their final six, with the last four losses all coming by at least three touchdowns. That should serve as some motivation to get better in the offseason.
8. Rutgers (4-8): The Scarlet Knights were the one team Cincinnati beat down the stretch, as Rutgers ended the year on a six-game losing streak. The remaking of Greg Schiano's staff has begun, and Tom Savage has left. Things should look different in Piscataway next season.