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Big East Football vs. the AQ Conferences in 2011 - Best Case, Worst Case, and Reality

If Big East fans thought that the conference's record against the non-AQ conferences was bad in 2010, then they might want to look away from this. The record against the AQ conferences was even worse. In 15 non-conference games against other AQ conference teams, the Big East went just 3-12. The league's best non-conference win over an AQ team was West Virginia's early season win over Maryland. This season, things should improve as some of the league's standing non-conference games appear to be shifting back in the favor of the Big East team and many of last year's tough road games are now home games. If Big East teams have any luck at all, they could score some impressive wins that would go a long way towards restoring some credibility to the football side of the conference.

The Opponents
  • ACC (6) - Cincinnati vs. N.C. State, Louisville at North Carolina, Rutgers at North Carolina, South Florida vs. Miami, West Virginia at Maryland, Syracuse vs. Wake Forest.
  • Big XII (1) - Connecticut vs. Iowa State
  • Big Ten (1) - Pittsburgh at Iowa
  • PAC 12 (1) - Syracuse at USC
  • SEC (4) - Cincinnati at Tennessee, Connecticut at Vanderbilt, Louisville at Kentucky, West Virginia vs. LSU
  • Notre Dame (2) - South Florida at Notre Dame, Pittsburgh vs. Notre Dame
The Best Game - LSU at West Virginia - This should be a fascinating game to watch that will likely also have national implications. LSU will undoubtedly be a preseason top five team and West Virginia will likely be the Big East's only ranked team in the preseason. The two teams played an extremely competitive game in Baton Rouge last year, with LSU holding on for a 20-14 win. It will be tough to glean much from last year's game because so much has changed. West Virginia loses nine players from its extremely tough defense of a year ago and LSU replaced offensive coordinator Gary Crowton with former Louisville head coach Steve Kragthorpe. Conversely, LSU loses do it all cover man Patrick Peterson, and West Virginia has overhauled its offense by turning the team over to Dana Holgorsen. Oh yeah, this time the game is in Morgantown, too. This will be Holgorsen's first chance in a nationally televised game with all of the eyeballs on him as a head coach to make a real statement. This year's game should be more of an up tempo, higher scoring game. But will the result be the same?

The Worst Game - Connecticut at Vanderbilt - Quarterbacks, Qaurterbacks everywhere and not a pass complete. That's the theme of Connecticut at Vanderbilt. Neither the Commodores nor the Huskies really have any idea who their quarterbacks will be and even if they pick on, it's doubtful either will be particularly effective. Usually the worst game is the biggest mismatch that could get ugly fast. This time it could be two very ground oriented teams just trying to get by without having to throw the ball that much. With all of the running that will surely happen in this game, with both teams being under new head coaches, and all of the personnel changes for both offenses, it could be a very ugly game to watch.

Sneaky Tough Game - Louisville at North Carolina - Just to be clear, this is going to be a sneaky tough game for North Carolina, not Louisville. This game was added to the schedule when ESPN bought Louisville out of its home and home series with Georgia. Louisville was lucky that it was moved off of the opening weekend and into late October. North Carolina will field the best front seven that Louisville will face all season and that's bad news for a team replacing four offensive line starters and its quarterback. However, by the time this game rolls around, Louisville will have half of its season under its belt and the Cardinals will field a pretty front seven of their own. North Carolina gets Louisville the week before the Heels host Miami, so there is always the possibility of a little look ahead factor as well. There's no telling just what the swirling controversy facing North Carolina off the field will do to the team, it may do nothing at all, but there's always the possibility that Butch Davis won't even be the coach by October. Louisville went on the road last year expecting to get dominated by Oregon State and game within two red zone turnovers of winning the game. Could this be a similar trip?

Best Case Scenario - There are so many games that it are 50/50 games where you could make the case for either team. Seems the best case for the Big East is that they get a good majority of the 50/50 games and West Virginia upsets LSU and/or USF upsets Notre Dame on the opening weekend. Louisville could do the conference a favor by ending its losing streak to Kentucky, something we consider very likely in 2011. Pittsburgh head coach Todd Graham beat Notre Dame in South Bend last year with Tulsa. Could he do the same with a better team and at home with Pitt? It's certainly possible. Still, there will be losses. We'll say the best case for the Big East is a 12-4.

Worst Case Scenario - It's not hard to envision the conference flopping in a manner similar to last year either. The only games that look like sure wins for the league are West Virginia at Maryland and Wake Forest at Syracuse. If it all breaks the other way, surely one more team will get lucky and the league could limp to another awful 3-13 record. 


Realistically - I have no doubt that the Big East's teams will fare better against the other AQ conference teams than they did in 2010. How much better remains to be seen. You have to think that even if the bottom falls out for teams like UConn or Rutgers, that some of the improved teams will notch a win or two to give the conference some credibility. Realistically, the Big East should go 9-7 against the other AQ conferences in 2011.

See also Big East Football vs. the Non-AQ Conferences in 2011 - Best Case, Worst Case, and Reality