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January 10, 2007
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Congrats to the Big East for going 5-0, making it the only conference to traipse through bowl season unscathed.
Since raising its football profile, the Big East has carried a chip on its shoulder because it often has been overlooked come bowl season.
So I'm not overlooking the league's performance. But ? here's another bag of chips for you.
I can't, in good conscience, say the Big East performed the best of any conference in the postseason. You were favored in all five games, and two of the point spreads (Louisville and Rutgers) were among the five largest of the entire bowl season. While I realize not every league did what it was supposed to do (you know who you are, Big Ten and Big 12), it's still sort of underwhelming. Everybody was picking your teams to win. In the Rivals.com Bowl Pick 'Em contest that had more than 18,000 participants, the Big East team favored the least was Louisville, and it was picked by 82.9 percent to beat Wake Forest.
Best major conference: SEC. It went 6-3, and the only loss that could be deemed even somewhat embarrassing was Tennessee's to Penn State. And even that game - without a key turnover that the Nittany Lions returned for a touchdown - could have gone either way into the fourth quarter. The SEC gets a national title in convincing fashion from Florida and major style points from LSU for its BCS blowout of Notre Dame. The SEC also pulled two of the biggest upsets of the bowl season, with Georgia knocking off Virginia Tech and Kentucky stunning heavily favored Clemson.
Worst major conference 1A: Big 12. It went a misleading 3-5, but all three of its victories came against teams that entered bowl season 6-6. The wins came by a combined margin of victory of eight points. Whoop-de-do. Its champion, Oklahoma, lost to Boise State despite being a seven-point favorite. Its North Division champ, Nebraska, also lost.
Worst major conference 1B: Big Ten. It went 2-5 and suffered three double-digit losses, not to mention Minnesota somehow blowing a 38-7 third-quarter lead. Penn State and Wisconsin maintained a shred of dignity for the league with wins over SEC foes, thus lifting it ahead of the miserable showing of the Big 12. Kind of like picking between rotten eggs and month-old bologna for lunch. Ohio State and Michigan, the teams many people believed should meet again in the title game, were horrific.
Best mid-major conference: WAC. It went 3-1, with its only loss Nevada's 21-20 decision against Miami. Boise State finished the season undefeated with one of the greatest efforts in bowl history. Hawaii smacked around Pac-10 foe Arizona State, and underdog San Jose State won the New Mexico Bowl against New Mexico.
Worst mid-major conference: Conference USA. This is one time where the record, 1-4, didn't lie. It wasn't particularly close in any of its losses (Houston's 44-36 decision against South Carolina was the narrowest margin). Rice was a favorite over Troy in the New Orleans Bowl and got beat 41-17. Its lone victory came from favored Southern Miss.
Best performances in losses: SEC. I already mentioned Tennessee's circumstances. The game with Penn State was 10-10 in the fourth quarter and the Vols were driving when Nittany Lions cornerback Tony Davis returned a fumble 86 yards for the go-ahead score. Arkansas lost 17-14 to Wisconsin, and underdog Alabama fell on a late field goal to Oklahoma State.
Conference whose top teams bottomed out: ACC. Wake Forest and Georgia Tech, the combatants in the ACC title game, both lost their bowl games - as did 10-win Virginia Tech. Boston College was dead in the water against Navy before the Midshipmen committed a later turnover and let the Eagles fly off with a win. Clemson was the biggest favorite of the entire bowl season and got beat by Kentucky.
Conference whose powers packed a punch: Pac-10. USC and California at least showed that the top of their league didn't float like a butterfly and sting like one, too, unlike the Big Ten. The Trojans mauled Michigan, and the Golden Bears swallowed Texas A&M whole.
Conference whose lesser lights shined: SEC. Kentucky set the tone for the SEC by turning back Clemson. South Carolina also turned back a 10-win Houston team.
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