There have been many opinions about the fate of the Big East in the new playoff format, little of it encouraging. It seems that the conference is a popular target for criticism. It couldn't catch a break in the BCS and already the new playoff scheme has resulted in negativity.
The Hartford Courant's football beat reporter, Desmond Conner, observed this:
Big East football has long been bashed because it had an automatic bid to the Bowl Championship Series. It is a conference perceived as not competitive on the national stage. It is a conference that will lose West Virginia, Pittsburgh and Syracuse. If this system had been in place in 2009, Cincinnati, which was third in the BCS standings, fourth in the Associated Press poll and 12-0, likely would have been playing in a national semifinal game.
But there is no guarantee what the selection committee would have done. This new system might give the Big East a better chance, but a Big East team might have to go undefeated to reach the playoffs.
Recall that TCU went undefeated (12-0) in 2009 and was ranked sixth in the final AP poll. The Horned Frogs went to the Fiesta Bowl, where they lost to fourth-ranked Boise State.
Houston made it to No. 7 last year after finishing the regular season 12-0. More telling though was their ranking the next week after falling to Southern Miss in the C-USA championship: voters dropped them to 20th, suggesting that the top 10 ranking was very artificial. Houston beat Penn State in the Ticket City Bowl and climbed only to 18th in the final AP ranking.
IF TCU and Houston -- a team that was headed to the Big East and one that is headed to the Big East -- didn't get much respect from voters, is it fair to assume that the selection committee is likely to view Big East teams any more favorably, even if they go undefeated?
What are the chances the committee will favor the Big East? The good folks at Athlon had this to say about the selection committee component for the new format:
One of the biggest opportunities for controversy has to be the selection committee. Is there really a way to avoid having people on the committee with ties to a school or conference?
I don't expect too many folks with Big East sentiments to receive invitations to participate ... so fans can toss potential benefit of good old-fashioned bias out the window.
Athlon goes on to add some "optimism." But even when saying something kind it's almost apologetically:
The "BCS" designation will go away, but there is no question about the power conferences in college football: ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC. Some have dismissed the Big East from that mix, but it is clearly ahead of the Mountain West and Conference USA in the next tier of conferences. The BCS system helped to get Boise State, Utah, Hawaii and TCU into big bowl games – will that access change for teams outside of the six power conferences? Or will this format help? With a selection committee involved in choosing the participants for the top six games, this may help access for some of the teams outside of power conferences.
If the selection committee chooses the teams for the remaining four "elite" bowl games, it's possible the Big East champion may get a berth there, but not without a sterling record and a top 10 ranking.
In the short term the Big East needs to rebuild its image and re-brand itself. The Rodney Dangerfield stigma has to go.