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Why Is the Big East Better Without Miami?

I enjoy giving College Football Resource a difficult time whenever he trots out that "Gang of Six" nonsense, so it is only fair that I should give him credit when he is right, as he often is.

This is my idea of a spread option.

Last weekend, CFR offered some sensible ruminations on the rise of the Big East, which I would encourage you to read if you have not done so already. Naturally, as a Georgia fan, I have a vested interest in the Big East's success, inasmuch as the league's watershed moment came against my team. In their first trio of games during the 2005 postseason, Big East squads were 0-3 in bowls; after winning the Sugar Bowl in January 2006, the league went 5-0 in postseason play last season.

While we all expected the Big East to decline in the absence of Miami and Virginia Tech, it now appears that the league improved precisely because the Hokies and the Hurricanes departed.

Previously, it had been understood universally that the road to the conference championship almost invariably ran through Blacksburg and Coral Gables; in the 13 seasons between 1991 and 2003, Miami finished first or second in Big East play a dozen times and V.P.I. finished in the top two seven times, so the rest of the league typically was relegated to battling over the silver medal or, oftentimes, the bronze.

"If you ain't first, you're last!"

Even when teams other than the 'Canes and the Hokies made it into the limelight, their performance on the grand stage seldom reflected favorably upon the Big East as a whole. More often than not, the league's other member institutions fell flat on their faces in major bowl games, as was the case with West Virginia's 41-7 loss to Florida in the 1994 Sugar Bowl, Syracuse's 35-18 loss to Kansas State in the 1997 Fiesta Bowl and the Orangemen's 31-10 loss to Florida in the 1999 Orange Bowl, and Pitt's 35-7 loss to Utah in the 2005 Fiesta Bowl.

When the Big East's marquee programs bolted for the A.C.C., a power vacuum was created and there no longer was any reason why several programs could not aspire realistically to becoming the league's new alpha male. West Virginia stepped to the forefront. Louisville entered the league and staked its claim. Rutgers rose to the ranks of the contenders. Pittsburgh and Syracuse have considerable potential based on tradition. Cincinnati and South Florida have tremendous potential based on demographics. Even U.Conn. has shown flashes of competitiveness from time to time.

Well, O.K., maybe not "competitiveness," exactly, but the Huskies are pretty tough, at least by Connecticut standards.

Teams in the newly reconstituted Big East have made a habit of bumping one another off, demonstrating the very attribute for which S.E.C. teams deservedly are given credit.

In 2005, West Virginia handed Louisville a 46-44 setback in Morgantown; a year later, the Cardinals returned the favor in the Bluegrass State. U. of L. came up three points short against Rutgers, then the Scarlet Knights fell to the Mountaineers in overtime. Toss in the occasional upset by Cincinnati or South Florida and it becomes clear that the Big East is a competitive conference.

A little over a year ago, college football fans were debating seriously whether the Big East deserved an automatic B.C.S. bid. Not only is that argument now over, but the Big East's seat at the table today appears both more legitimate and more secure than that of the conference that Miami and Virginia Tech currently call home.

The Big East's top teams are better than their A.C.C. counterparts and the younger of the two leagues also is the deeper conference. If I were Mike Tranghese, I'd be arguing publicly that the Atlantic Coast Conference's status as an automatic B.C.S. qualifier ought to be reconsidered. Hey, that wouldn't be the dumbest thing said by a major conference commissioner lately. . . .

Go 'Dawgs!