Big East football madness

Today and tomorrow are my two favorite days on the sports calendar: the first two days of the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

You're reading this because you love college football, probably more so than basketball. But we can only dream of the day when there is any kind of football tournament.

That doesn't mean we can't stage our own version of madness. I thought it would be fun to start an eight-team fantasy tournament featuring the top Big East teams since 2004. Why 2004? Well, if we did the whole decade, the thing would be dominated by Miami, and who needs those ACC turncoats, right?

Anyway, I appointed myself as the tournament selection committee chairman -- the committee has only one member -- and chose the eight teams for the field. League champions who went to BCS games got an automatic bid. For seeding purposes, we used the bowl games as kind of a conference tournament; those that performed well in their bowls got a little boost in their stock.

Without further ado, here is the field:

Automatic bids

Pittsburgh 2004 (8-4, 4-2 Big East)

Credentials: Won a watered-down Big East the year after Miami and Virginia Tech left. Blown out by Utah in the 2005 Fiesta Bowl. Best wins were over Boston College, Notre Dame and West Virginia.

West Virginia 2005 (11-1, 7-0)

Credentials: Rolled through the Big East schedule behind a pair of freshmen named Pat White and Steve Slaton. Upset Georgia in the 2006 Sugar Bowl to help restore the Big East's reputation. Finished No. 5 in the AP Top 25.

Louisville 2006 (12-1, 6-1)

Credentials: Rose as high as No. 3 in the rankings, with its only loss coming to Rutgers late in the year. High-flying offense behind quarterback Brian Brohm and directed by coach Bobby Petrino. Beat Wake Forest in the 2007 Orange Bowl and finished No. 6 in the rankings.

West Virginia 2007 (11-2, 5-2)

Credentials: Ranked No. 2 on the final week of the season before being upset by Pittsburgh at home. Rebounded to beat Oklahoma in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl. Finished No. 6.

Cincinnati 2008 (11-3, 6-1)

Credentials: Breakthrough season for the Bearcats under second-year coach Brian Kelly. Despite multiple quarterback injuries, the team remained an explosive offense and rode an underrated defense to win the Big East. Lost to Virginia Tech in the 2009 Orange Bowl.

Cincinnati 2009 (12-1, 7-0)

Credentials: Finished the regular season 12-0 and ranked No. 3 in the BCS standings with one of the nation's top offensive attacks. Blown out by Florida in the 2010 Sugar Bowl after Kelly bolted for Notre Dame. Ended at No. 8 in the AP Top 25.

At-large bids

WVU 2006 (11-2, 5-2)

Credentials: Lost to Louisville and South Florida but beat Georgia Tech in the Gator Bowl. Finished ranked No. 10 in both polls.

Rutgers 2006 (11-2, 5-2)

Beat Louisville but lost at Cincinnati and West Virginia. Rebounded to trample Kansas State in the Texas Bowl and finish No. 12 in the poll.

So now this is where you come in. I'll present the games as they happen, and I want you to vote on who you think would win the matchup. Your voting won't be the sole basis for who survives and advances, but it will have major influence. Our first game is:

  • No. 1 West Virginia 2005 vs. No. 8 Pittsburgh 2004

Who wins, what happens and why?