Whenever folks talk about the stability of the Big East from a national perspective, many forget about Cincinnati.
This is a program that has been to two BCS bowl games the last three seasons, and has been elevated to one of the best in the Big East. But did you know that Cincinnati is one of two teams among the automatic qualifying conferences that has won a share of its league in three of the last four seasons?
The other: Oregon.
The Ducks have played in a national championship, and are headed back to the Rose Bowl this season. Their offense has caught the attention of many college football fans. But Cincinnati has not really gotten much national attention, or respect, despite its championships. There are a few reasons for this.
1) The Big East. You guys already know how badly the Big East gets dissed on a national level. Winning championships in this league is not exactly seen as some Herculean effort.
2) BCS performance. What really hurt Cincinnati in its two BCS games was its performance — a 20-7 loss to Virginia Tech in the 2009 Orange Bowl and a 51-24 loss to Florida in the 2010 Sugar Bowl. We can argue about the Sugar Bowl performance because it came in the wake of Brian Kelly's departure. But the fact is the Bearcats went undefeated in the regular season and then got blown out in the bowl game. Fans remember the results, not the circumstances surrounding the results.
3) History. Cincinnati only has been in an AQ league since 2005, and it takes time for programs to become universally accepted as a consistent player year in and year out.
It obviously helps the Big East that Cincinnati is staying on board because of its recent history, and its trajectory for the future. Coach Butch Jones has proven he can win, and he has talented players returning.
At right is the list of conference champions in the six AQ conferences, since 2008. Thanks to Ryan Koslen at Cincinnati for supplying the great research.