With the news that Penn State and Pitt have finally worked out an agreement to play a home and home beginning in 2016, it's only natural to begin thinking about other games that we as fans of Big East football would like to see on a regular basis. Some of these games have been played recently, some are standing rivalries that have gone dormant, and some are matchups that have never been played. That being the case, here are six games we'd like to see Big East teams play regularly.
Cincinnati vs. Kentucky
While it might seem more reasonable to call for an Ohio State matchup for Cincinnati, we're more intrigued by this idea for a number of reasons. First, Ohio State and Cincinnati rarely do battle for the same recruits. It's not dig at Cincinnati to say that Ohio State will typically always get the elite kids in the region. Second, Lexington is actually closer to Cincinnati than is Columbus. Third, Cincinnati and Kentucky have both seen their respective football fortunes improve (albeit to different levels) in the same period of time. Kentucky making the first of four consecutive bowl appearances beginning in 2007, while Cincinnati reached bowl games every year from 2006 to 2009 until last season's 4-8 season ended its streak. The schools played regularly throughout the 80s and 90s with Kentucky winning all but three of the games. They haven't met since 1996. Kentucky recently played a neutral field game with Miami (OH) at Paul Brown Stadium (PBS) that was a de facto home game for the Wildcats. Given Cincinnati's increasing use of PBS, a home and home or even just a series of neutral field games at PBS would be great for the region and although the stadium is in Cincinnati, Kentucky fans and their willingness to travel would ensure it's a true neutral site.
West Virginia vs. Virginia Tech
The former Big East rivals are just four hours apart, but haven't met since the Hokies bolted the Big East for the ACC in 2005. The schools met annually from 1973 to 2005, even before the Big East offered football as a conference. The series saw some fantastic games in its time and it is not hard to envision some great games again. West Virginia was twice blanked by Virginia Tech and the now famous Frank Beamer defenses. Would anyone else enjoy watching Bud Foster and the Hokies' defense match wits with Dana Holgorsen and his spread offenses at West Virginia? It's a perfect series that we know West Virginia fans would love to see again.
Louisville vs. Miami
We propose a renewal of the series between schools who owe their very existence to Howard Schnellenberger. Howard turned Miami into a national power by recruiting "the state of Miami". He built Louisville from virtually nothing by getting local kids and also extending Louisville's reach into Florida, picking off kids that the big schools in state overlooked or ignored. A 13-13 tie, led by none other than Johnny Unitas, in 1950 was one of Louisville's biggest "wins" as a program. In 2004, Louisville nearly knocked off Miami at home before Devin Hester burned the Cardinals in the return game in a furious comeback. Two years later, Louisville routed Miami 31-7 before a national audience in its national coming out party. That game was famously marked by Miami stomping the Cardinals' midfield logo, only to have the Cardinals stomp them. With Charlie Strong now Louisville's head coach and former Miami player and assistant coach Clint Hurtt now Louisville's defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator, we'd love to see Louisville and Miami play again and give the Cardinals a chance to take their team full of Florida players back down to Miami for another round.
Connecticut vs. Maryland
Only six or seven hours apart, we like the idea of these two matching up due to recent events on the respective coaching staffs. Randy Edsall was the only coach UConn ever had since making the move from FCS to FBS in 2000. Edsall slowly and patiently built the UConn program first into something respectable and ultimately into a Big East champion that went to this year's Fiesta Bowl. Then, he promptly left for what many consider not much more than a lateral move to Maryland. His departure angered some as he forced running back Jordan Todman to tell the team he was heading to the NFL, but then failed to report his taking the Maryland job in similar fashion. Maryland had one of the nation's hottest up and coming defensive coordinators in Don Brown and a young defense that returns in 2011 mostly intact. After the Terps unceremoniously dumped Ralph Friedgen, Brown initially agreed to stay on Edsall's staff, but shortly thereafter bolted to join Paul Pasqualoni's staff at, you guessed it, UConn. There aren't many opportunities for non-conference BCS level matchups in New England, but for all of the coaching intrigue, we'd love to see UConn get a shot at its old coach every year, and see Brown get a chance to scheme for his old team as well.
Syracuse vs. Boston College
This series recently came back to life, which has been great to see. Another matchup teams that were once Big East brethren, but whose series predates Big East football, Boston College and Syracuse are just 5.5 hours apart and previously met every year from 1961 to 2004. Much like UConn and Maryland, we like the series because it offers a chance to see quality Northeast programs play in meaningful non-conference games that the region can get excited about. Syracuse fans have clamored to get BC back on the schedule and have been thrilled to have the two games series that ends after this season. Here's hoping that one of the old Big East's longest standing series' gets renewed.
South Florida vs. Central Florida
I am going to get all sorts of angry comments and emails from USF fans about this one, but, hear me out, ok? I know you don't want to play UCF and I know that objectively there is nothing for you to gain out of giving them the chance to beat you every season and claim some kind of program equality. Still, look at this series as parallel to West Virginia and Marshall. We know West Virginia doesn't want to play Marshall. We know it's lose/lose for the Mountaineers to play the game (which they have no choice about). Still, there's some value in beating your in-state rival every year if you have to play it. That's how we like to look at this game. The Bulls are 4-0 all time against Central Florida, including the 64-12 beatdown laid on the Knights in 2007 (this despite UCF playing football for almost twenty years longer than USF). UCF is constantly clamoring for much of the respect and acknowledgement that USF now gets in-state since USF has now defeated FSU and Miami on the road in the past four years. What better way to hush UCF fans while reinforcing your superiority than to beat them annually? They're not going to pipe any other way, so you might as well do it yourself.