When trying to put a final bow on the bowl season this year for the Big East, you could almost rerun the assessment from this time last year.
Once again, the league finished 4-2 in the postseason. And once again, the view from the bottom was a whole lot prettier than the view at the top.
For the second straight year, Cincinnati represented the Big East in the BCS, and for the second straight year, the Bearcats did not put on a performance representative of their regular season.
There was one big mitigating factor this year -- namely the coaching turmoil after Brian Kelly left for Notre Dame on Dec. 10. Still, after a 12-0 regular season and No. 3 BCS ranking, Cincinnati crashed and burned in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, losing 51-24 to Florida. If there was any solace, it was that the Gators might have been the second best team in the country, and they were motivated to play one last time for Tim Tebow and Urban Meyer. But the Bearcats' showing -- they trailed 37-3 in the third quarter -- did nothing to enhance the league's reputation as a whole.
Also like last year, the league's No. 2 team stubbed its toe in a lackluster effort. This time, it was West Virginia losing to 6-6 Florida State in the Konica Minolta Gator Bowl. The Mountaineers led 14-3 early but were outscored 30-7 the rest of the way. As much as they've helped the league over the years in postseason, they can be forgiven for this loss. And most will only remember the game for Bobby Bowden's last win; perhaps in time people will forget West Virginia was even in that game.
Down the ladder, things were much rosier for the Big East. Pitt scored a good win against North Carolina in the Meineke Car Care Bowl, finishing with 10 victories. UConn beat up an SEC opponent, handling South Carolina a 20-7 setback in the Papajohns.com Bowl. And South Florida and Rutgers both overpowered opponents from non-BCS conferences, as they should have.
The Big East wasn't in desperate need of gaining respect in its bowls after having a strong regular season, led by the Bearcats. The league still ended the year with three Top 25 teams.
Next year, though, the conference would like to write a different script. Its best teams have to show up on the biggest stages.