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Big East's best leave a lot to be desired

No. 19 Louisville loses at home to Connecticut, 23-20 in triple overtime. No. 21 Rutgers is routed by Pittsburgh, 27-6. Louisville and Rutgers will meet in the Big East Conference title game Thursday.

November 25, 2012|By Mike Hiserman, Los Angeles Times
  • No. 19 Louisville lost at home to Connecticut, 23-20.
No. 19 Louisville lost at home to Connecticut, 23-20. (John Woike / MCT )

The best part of breaking up the Bowl Championship Series? Fans of top-notch college football won't be subjected to the Big East Conference champion playing in a prominent postseason game.

In football, the Big East is the Big Least. Louisville and Rutgers entered play Saturday ranked in the Associated Press top 25, but hopefully that charade is over.

No. 19 Louisville, playing at home against lowly Connecticut, lost, 23-20, in triple overtime. No. 21 Rutgers was routed by Pittsburgh, 27-6. UConn and Pittsburgh each began the day with records of 4-6 overall, 1-4 in Big East play.

Rutgers' best win this season was probably over Arkansas, which fired its coach within hours of its season ending. Louisville was recently routed, 45-26, by Syracuse.

Gee, just can't wait till that big Louisville at Rutgers game Thursday with the conference title and an automatic berth in a BCS bowl game on the line.

Yuck.

'The' twilight zone

Latest reminder that fan is short for fanatic: Former Ohio State Coach Jim Tressel was greeted with a standing ovation when the 2002 Buckeyes team he guided to a national championship was honored before Saturday's game against Michigan.

Ohio State then defeated the Wolverines, 26-21, to complete an undefeated season which is, at best, bittersweet.

The reason: Players recruited and coached by Tressel were caught trading championship rings, jerseys and other memorabilia for tattoos, and the coach lied about it. That led to his firing and NCAA sanctions that included a bowl ban that will keep the Buckeyes out of the postseason this season.

Stand and clap for that.

Counterintuitive

There have been plenty of memorable moments in the Civil War rivalry between Oregon and Oregon State. One that was forgettable then, but is a head-slapper now, is the 1983 game, which came to be known as "The Toilet Bowl."

Played in wet and blustery conditions, the game included 11 fumbles, five interceptions and four missed field goals. It ended in a 0-0 tie.

Who would have guessed Oregon had played in Division I football's last scoreless game?

Flip that frown

You wonder whether John L. Smith will manage a smile today. Here's guessing he will.

Smith was fired by Arkansas on Saturday, a day after his team — which was expected to be a powerhouse — completed a 4-8 season.

Smith was the relentlessly positive coach who famously exhorted a sad sack Arkansas media corps after the Razorbacks had fallen to 1-2. At a news conference, Smith, who was also suffering through personal problems including a bankruptcy, chided reporters to hold their "chins up" and "smile," jokingly saying he wasn't "talkin'" until the mood in the room brightened.

Smith was working on a 10-month contract after his alma mater called on him to replace Bobby Petrino, who was fired in April for hiring his mistress and initially lying about the fact that she was with him when he was involved in a motorcycle accident.

Fast fall

Southern Mississippi lost to Memphis, 42-24, completing a fast and deep fall from grace. The Golden Eagles, who had not had a losing season since 1993 and had made 11 consecutive bowl appearances, finished 0-12 and are major college football's only winless team.

Another tumble

After Illinois defeated Northwestern last year, the Illini were 5-0. The next week, they downed Indiana and jumped to No. 16 in the Associated Press media poll.

Then came six consecutive losses, costing Coach Ron Zook his job, before a win in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl against UCLA.

This season, more misery: Illinois renewed its series against Northwestern on Saturday and lost, 50-14, its ninth consecutive loss overall and 13th straight in conference dating to last season.

Play up the 'Classic'

The "Bayou Classic" — the nationally televised football rivalry game between Grambling and Southern — just isn't what it used to be. The teams took a combined record of 4-16 into Saturday's game, worst in the series' 39-year history.

You have to wonder how long the game will remain on NBC, and that's too bad. The football either needs to improve a couple of levels, or the halftime battle of the bands needs to be extended and featured.

The Tiger Band from Grambling and the "Human Jukebox" band from Southern are worth the price of admission, which is probably why Saturday's game — won by Southern, 38-33 — still drew 45,980 fans to the New Orleans Superdome.

mike.hiserman@latimes.com

Times wire services contributed to this report.

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