The time has come to put a big red bow on the 2011 season. I present to you the final Big East power rankings:
1. West Virginia (10-3). I would say scoring a bowl-record 70 points against Clemson in the Discover Orange Bowl gives the Mountaineers this spot quite comfortably. They lost a couple of head-scratchers, but they also beat Cincinnati -- the other 10-win Big East team -- and ended the season with four straight victories.
2. Cincinnati (10-3). We can talk about woulda been or shoulda been had Zach Collaros stayed healthy. But the reality is that the Bearcats put together their third championship season in four years, and won their first bowl game since 2007. Cincinnati also reached 10 wins for the fourth time in five seasons.
3. Rutgers (9-4). How about woulda been or shoulda been for the Scarlet Knights? Had they beaten UConn in the regular-season finale, they would have had a share of their first Big East championship. But nine wins is not too shabby for a team picked to finish last in the Big East. Plus, Rutgers owns the nation’s longest active bowl winning streak with five consecutive victories in postseason play.
4. Louisville (7-6). The Cardinals slip a notch because they could not close the season out with a win. Too many mistakes doomed them in a Belk Bowl loss to NC State. Still, you have to give credit to coach Charlie Strong for leading this team to a share of the Big East championship in his second season. They just have a lot of maturing to do.
5. Pitt (6-7). Let's be honest -- the Panthers closed out the season about as terribly as a team can play. But who can blame them for wanting the season to be over as quickly as possible after 1.) the disappointing season and 2.) the debacle that was Todd Graham? They beat the bottom three teams, so there is no real reason to rank them lower.
6. UConn (5-7). Had the Huskies held on to leads against Iowa State, Vanderbilt or Western Michigan, they would have gone back to a bowl game. But alas, they were never able to string together consecutive wins on the season, and beat only one team with a winning record.
7. USF (5-7). The Bulls have to be the biggest disappointment of the Big East, after some picked them as a dark horse to win the conference. Their only league win came at Syracuse, and they ended the season with seven losses in their final eight games. Really hard to believe for a team with so much talent.
8. Syracuse (5-7). What can you say about a team that had a major victory (over West Virginia), then proceeded to lose five straight to end the season? Their résumé is pretty comparable to USF, but the Bulls won head to head so Syracuse ends up here.