When the preseason USA Today Top 25 (Coaches Poll) was released a few weeks ago, the coaches, definitely unintentionally, poured fuel on the fire that is BCS debate. The Mountain West Conference (MWC) had three teams ranked while the Big East had none. TCU was number 17, Utah was 18, and BYU was 24. The leading vote getter for the Big East was Cincinnati which would be number 29 if the rankings went that high. The BCS debate reached new proportions at the end of last season. The last thing that the BCS needed was for preseason rankings like this. Keep in mind this is the USA Today poll, which is part of the BCS formula.
Before going on, I am one who feels the MWC is better than the Big East and the MWC Champion can hold its own with the “Big Six” conference champions. I would love to see multiple MWC teams ranked above the Big East champion at the end of the year. However, MWC/“mid-major” fans need to temper our jubilee. First, a whole season needs to be played. Preseason expectations don’t put points on the scoreboard. Second, the Big East champion will be ranked at season’s end. How high? No one knows.
The Big East has no clear favorite. This is what the preseason USA Today Top 25 is reflecting. As I noted, Cincinnati was number 29 with 90 points, followed by Pittsburgh at 30 with 64 points, West Virginia at 31 with 55 points, and Rutgers at 32 with 51 points. It looks like most voters have at least one Big East team in their Top 25. They just don’t agree on which one is the best. As the season progresses, and one team separates itself from the others, the points that these four teams share will migrate to the one with the separation. The point total for these four teams is 260 points, which would be good for number 21 in the poll. At this point, the voters feel the Big East champion will be the 21st best team in the country. This is still good news for MWC fans, because two teams are still ranked above 21. Come season’s end, though, there is a 95% chance the Big East champion will be closer to number 12 than 21. Last year Cincinnati was ranked number 12 in the final BCS polls, as well as the final regular season USA Today poll. With an 11-2 won-loss record, that ranking can’t be criticized; it just was not foreseen in August. Expect the same this year, unless the Big East champion has three or four losses.
What’s the bottom line? Yes, the perception of the MWC is improving, but they have to back it up on the field. The MWC is in a position to have its champion ranked higher than the Big East champion again this year, but the MWC champ’s won-loss record will need to be two losses maximum.
The USA Today Top 25 can be found at: http://www.usatoday.com/sports/college/football/usatpoll.htm