For much of the 2012 season, Big East football was the most disrespected BCS conference in the nation. Some thought the conference did not deserve it’s automatic qualifying status. Others took to calling it the Big Least conference. However, the current bowl season has vindicated a conference that struggled mightily amidst turmoil and low expectations. Five teams earned bowl invited. 7-5 Louisville nearly won the Big East championship and put another dent in the conference’s credibility. Thus far, Louisville’s loss to NC State in the Belk Bowl has been the Big East’s only blemish during bowl season.

Co-Big East champion Cincinnati defeated Vanderbilt at the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. It took a huge effort from Pead for Cincinnati to put away a Commodores team that finished fourth in the SEC East. The Bearcats survived a pedestrian performance by senior quarterback Zach Collaros thanks to running back Isaiah Pead’s 149-yard, one touchdown game.

The Rutgers Scarlet Knights capped off a surprising nine-win season with a victory over Iowa State in the Pinstripe Bowl last week. The Scarlet Knights stifled the Cyclones offense and forced Iowa State into three costly turnovers. Iowa State threw for nearly 400 yards but Rutgers’ conservative approach did the job. Chas Dodd threw for 176 yards and one touchdown on 10-of-17 passing. Meanwhile, running back Jawan Jamison led the offense with 131 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries.

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