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Pirate Notebook No. 484
Monday, December 5, 2011

Denny O'Brien

Changing system lessens Big Eastís appeal

Harris BCS Poll

For the sixth year in a row, columnist Denny O'Brien is a member of the voting panel for the Harris Interactive College Football Poll commissioned by the Bowl Championship Series. O'Brien was nominated to the panel by Conference USA.

The Harris Poll is a component of the BCS Standings. O'Brien's ballot below was filed in conjunction with this week's final 2011 Harris BCS Poll.

Denny O'Brien's Harris Poll Ballot

[Ballot cast 12.04.11]

(Conference USA teams and ECU opponents highlighted in yellow.)

  1. LSU
  2. Oklahoma State
  3. Alabama
  4. Oregon
  5. Stanford
  6. Boise State
  7. Arkansas
  8. South Carolina
  9. Kansas State
10. Wisconsin
11. Georgia
12. Baylor
13. Texas Christian
14. Michigan State
15. Michigan
16. Clemson
17. Nebraska
18. Virginia Tech
19. Southern Miss
20. Oklahoma
21. Penn State
22. Houston
23. West Virginia
24. Notre Dame
25. Florida State

Final BCS Standings

Harris/AP/Coaches Polls



Changing system lessens Big Eastís appeal
Conference USA Bowl Schedule & Scoreboard
Final BCS Standings
Harris/AP/Coaches Polls
Yesterday not good to Morrow
ECU-Charlotte Gallery
Old Dominion grinds down Pirates
Focus turns to recruiting, 2012 season
Pirates must develop QB, running game

C-USA Standings

(Through games of 12.03.11)

Conference USA record reflects
regular season games only

East Division







West Division







C-USA Bowl Schedule

By Denny O'Brien
All Rights Reserved.

Maybe the Big East will eventually announce its replacements for the schools that successfully escaped it. That moderately anticipated announcement was supposed to occur several weeks ago, only to get 86íd by the scandal at Penn State.

Big East football hardly registers nationally to begin with, and developments in State College would have shoved any mention of expansion to the back page of any sports daily.

Then it was supposed to happen a couple of weeks ago, once all the red tape with existing television contracts was cut through. Obviously the Big East wasnít expecting to get BY-Used in the process.

So here we sit today with no official news on the Big Eastís future plans. Only a six-pack of mediocre pigskin programs remains, with speculation of the programs that will join it. Included within that bunch are current Conference USA members Central Florida, Houston, and Southern Methodist, along with Mountain West delegates Air Force, Boise State, and San Diego State.

Itís perplexing that only one of those schools is in the eastern time zone.

If the Bowl Championship Series were to keep its current system in place, hopping a jet from San Diego to New Jersey makes perfect sense. The lure of AQ status within the current postseason structure would more than compensate for any financial hardship that might accompany cross-country travel.

But if Houston and friends are banking on the Big East ó or anyone ó maintaining AQ status, they are taking a short-sighted approach. Itís clear from the most recent BCS meetings that major change is on the horizon, and the elimination of AQ status could be the next route taken.

Should that occur, and many believe it will, what then for Houston and SMU? Will the television contract the Big East negotiates provide the necessary compensation for those schools to send their womenís volleyball teams to the Northeast several times per year?

And without AQ status, whatís the draw for Boise State to leave one league of perceived misfits for another? Especially when further exploration into the new merger between C-USA and the Mountain West could ultimately lead to more bowl and television revenue.

Considering Central Floridaís geographic location and rival South Floridaís existence in the Big East, it makes perfect sense for the Knights to accept an invitation. Thatís not the case for most of the other schools being discussed.

For the non-eastern time zone schools, joining the Big East does not provide a decided competitive upgrade from their current conference scenarios. More importantly, there is no guarantee that a move will provide a better bottom line.

The case for Oklahoma State

The thought of a rematch between LSU and Alabama had no influence on my final Harris Poll ballot. Truthfully, my eyes would welcome another game between the Tigers and Crimson Tide.

There were, however, many factors that led me to push the Cowboys ahead of the Tide in the final rankings. The most important was the overall number of quality wins.

Oklahoma State embarrassed both Baylor (my No. 12) and Oklahoma (my No. 19) this year, while also beating Kansas State (my No. 9). The Cowboys also registered solid road victories over Tulsa, Texas A&M, Texas, and Missouri.

Comparatively, Alabama had convincing victories over Arkansas (my No. 7) and Penn State (my No. 21). But its other conference wins werenít nearly as impressive as Oklahoma Stateís, and the Tide also has a win over a Football Championship Series opponent on its resume.

There is no question that Oklahoma State has the worst loss between the two, losing at Iowa State in double overtime. But in the end, I valued the overall number of quality wins more heavily, along with the fact that the Cowboys won one of the nationís most challenging conferences, while Alabama didnít even win its own division.

Given that criteria, Oklahoma State was more deserving.

Back to bowling

There is no indication that East Carolina coach Ruffin McNeill is on the hot seat, but itís clear given the volume of openings that athletics directors lack the patience that was reflected in the job 20 years ago.

They canít afford to.

When programs donít win, donors arenít nearly as generous with their checkbooks or attendance. Television executives and regional media also lose interest when teams lose more than they win.

And itís ultimately up to the AD to address those issues.

With East Carolina finishing 5-7, the Pirates ended a streak of five consecutive bowl appearances, a run that included two straight C-USA championships and Liberty Bowl berths. Missing the postseason naturally caused some unrest within the masses, and the mere thought of extending that to consecutive seasons could potentially cause an uproar.

Given the navigable C-USA slate and East Carolinaís competitive and financial position within the conference pecking order, itís reasonable for fans, at a minimum, to expect the Pirates to conclude each season with a bowl.

The number of ECU returnees compared to the personnel losses of its conference rivals suggests the Pirates could again contend for the C-USA crown next fall. With a lighter non-conference load, the Pirates should, at a minimum, return to a bowl.

That should keep McNeillís status relatively secure.

E-mail Denny O'Brien

Denny O'Brien Archives

12/06/2011 02:02 AM

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