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Monday, August 8, 2011
How did expansion affect title hopes?

By Andrea Adelson

There is no question the Big East enhanced its football profile when it added TCU to the mix. The Horned Frogs join in 2012 and should give the league a little more national credibility. After all, TCU is ranked in the preseason USA Today coaches poll. No Big East team is ranked.

Whether the Horned Frogs can come into the league and compete for a league championship immediately remains to be seen. But does the addition of TCU help the league's chances of getting into a BCS national championship game?

That also is unclear. The Big East has never had a team in the BCS national championship game.. In 2009, Cincinnati went undefeated but the Bearcats finished No. 3 in the final BCS standings behind Alabama and Texas. Had Texas lost to Nebraska in the Big 12 championship game, many believe undefeated TCU would have leapfrogged Cincinnati into the BCS title game.

What the Horned Frogs have going for them is something that has eluded Big East teams of late -- sustained success. TCU has gone to two straight BCS bowl games and had two straight unbeaten regular seasons. This is a team that has dropped one game in two years, and has won 11-plus games in three straight seasons. No Big East team can say the same.

That success has allowed the program to build up credibility and a national profile. The Big East might have legacy programs like West Virginia, Pittsburgh and Syracuse, but TCU has overtaken them of late.

So does that mean adding TCU helps overall league strength of schedule? Yes. Does it mean an undefeated Big East team can get into the BCS national championship game ahead of teams from other conferences? ESPN BCS guru Brad Edwards weighs in:

"Having TCU would theoretically help the schedule strength of all other teams in the Big East and give an opportunity for a quality win, but I'm not sure it will make a big difference in terms of the BCS pecking order," Edwards said.  "The most important thing about TCU's addition is attempting to preserve the AQ status of the conference for the next BCS contract (if there is one)."

Indeed, the Big East is not in danger of losing its AQ status for this cycle. But when it ends in 2014, then all leagues will be reviewed to determine whether they deserve to remain automatic qualifiers. There was much outrage last season when UConn made it into a BCS game with an 8-4 record as the Big East representative. Adding TCU is not going to avoid something like that happening in the future, but it does strengthen the league.

There also is the possibility the Big East is not done expanding. With its new media rights deal up for renegotiation in September 2012, the league is still looking at future possibilities. But for now, the Big East is a nine-team league that still has an outside shot at the national championship game, even with TCU.