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We must confess that we can't wait each year for the crunch of shoulder pads; for cleats churning up chunks of turf and red-faced coaches screaming from the sidelines. But enough about lacrosse. College football season is upon us, and to celebrate, we're going to get back into tiny tidbit mode and present four things you didn't know about each major conference. If you have a little-known fact about your team or conference, strap it to a freshman, point him in our direction and whack him on the ass. Or, mail to Today: The Big East.

1. We've Got Scarlet Knight Fever. Which member of the Big East Conference was established first? Pencils down; the answer of course is Rutgers, which opened its doors in 1766 as Queen's College, a Dutch Reformed Church-affiliated institution. You knew that? OK, then how about this: Rutgers is one of only two schools to have turned down an invitation to join the Ivy League. How much juice does Rutgers have in New Jersey? We'd say Tony Soprano-type juice. The university recently strong-armed the town of Piscataway into changing zoning laws to let coach Greg Schiano build a home. By the way, Rutgers is also the home of the one college football game we're likely to see in person this year: September 9, Illinois at Rutgers.

2. Sweet Home Alabama. Chances of landing a bowl bid in the eight-team conference just improved dramatically, as the Big East announced its affiliation with two new bowl games; the International Bowl in Toronto, Ontario, and the Birmingham Bowl in Birmingham, Ala. So, do not give up hope, Louisville fans, when your team fails to make the Meineke Car Care Bowl. There now are other options.

3. Meet The Mountaineers. West Virginia was picked to win the conferece in the preseason media poll, grabbing 18 of 24 first-place votes. The Mountaineers are the only team to have won at least a share of the past three Big East titles. Second? Louisville. Last? Syracuse.

4. USF: Melon-Smashing Good. Even though its been around since 1956 and is the third-largest university in the state, the University of South Florida has produced exactly one great football player: Kenyatta Jones (if you consider him great). However, the Bulls make up for it in other areas. Among distinguished alumni are Tony La Russa and comedian Gallagher.