The question on my mind about the Big East is “how many teams are going to reach bowl eligibility?” The Big East is the only conference in the nation (other than the lowly Sun Belt) with only one bowl eligible team (Syracuse), but that figures to change pretty quickly.
Every team in the conference still has a chance at getting to the requisite six win mark. Four teams are within just one game of bowl eligibility, two have four wins, and Cincinnati has three. The Bearcats face a major uphill battle to get to six, but outside of them, every team has to fancy its chances at getting there. Let’s take a look:
Syracuse – 6-3 – BOWL ELIGIBLE
Pitt – 5-3
Remaining Games – @ UConn, @ South Florida, West Virginia, @ Cincinnati
Three road games out of the last four is tough, but for the clear conference favorites, the task shouldn’t be too tall. They are playing UConn as I write this and my best guess is that they have their sixth win by about 10:30 tonight.
Chances for Bowl Eligibility – 99%
West Virginia – 5-3
Remaining Games – Cincinnati, @ Louisville, @ Pitt, Rutgers
Cincinnati is reeling right now, so you would think WVU will get it done this weekend, but the Mountaineer offense has been so horrendous. West Virginia still has probably the most talent in the league and it would be a shocker if they lost out.
Chances for Bowl Eligibility – 95%
Louisville – 5-4
Remaining Games – USF, West Virginia, @ Rutgers,
The Cards have about as much momentum as they’ve had this side of Bobby Petrino and it’s hard to picture them dropping two in a row at home. I say they clinch it this weekend.
Chances for Bowl Eligibility – 90%
South Florida – 5-3
Remaining Games – @ UofL, Pitt, @ Miami (FL), UConn
This path could be a little tough. USF figures to be the underdog in their next three games, so unless they pull an upset, they will need a win over UConn to get to six. Even so, an 0-4 finish is hard to imagine for the Bulls.
Chances for Bowl Eligibility – 85%
UConn – 4-4
Remaining Games – Pitt, @ Syracuse, Cincinnati, @ USF
Yeah, UConn has some tough games, but none are unwinnable. I say UConn beats Syracuse on the road, then takes down Cincinnati at home to get it done, assuming they don’t beat Pitt tonight.
Chances for Bowl Eligibility – 60%
Rutgers – 4-4
Remaining Games – Syracuse, @ Cincinnati, Louisville, @ West Virginia
Tough finish against two of the top four teams in the current BE standings…and that doesn’t include West Virginia. If they can’t win two of their next three, I don’t think they are going to Morgantown and getting a win on the last day of the season.
Chances for Bowl Eligibility – 35%
Cincinnati – 3-5
Remaining Games – @ West Virginia, Rutgers, @ UConn, Pitt
Don’t think it’s happening. Winning three of the last four is a lot to ask, especially when it starts with West Virginia and ends with Pitt.
Chances for Bowl Eligibility – 5%
Here are the games this weekend.
Game of the Week – South Florida @ UofL – Saturday 12 PM, ESPNU
If they can pry themselves away from the awesome party deck at Papa Johns Cardinal Stadium, the crowd will be rocking for this one coming off of a big road win against Syracuse. Luckily for them, it looks like Bilal Powell will be on the field Saturday, as he returned to practice on Wednesday for the first time since his knee injury. However, Justin Burke is likely to be under center again as starter Adam Froman nurses a thigh bruise.
The Cards defense have helped Charlie Strong and company overcome a bunch of injuries on the offensive side of the ball of late, holding their opponents to under 300 yards in total offense the last three times out. Limiting big plays will be a key against BJ Daniels and the USF offense is the way to stop them. If you force USF into long drives versus quick strikes, odds are that they will turn it over.
South Florida has turned it around of late, winning two in a row to get to 2-2 in conference. Senior RB Moise Plancher is coming off of his best game of his career, so the Cards will look to limit him.
Games to Keep an Eye on
Cincinnati @ West Virginia – Saturday 12 PM, ESPN3.com/Big East Network
Both of these teams have lost two in a row in Big East play after looking like contenders early on. It looks unlikely that either can jump back into the BE race, but any faint hopes can be forgotten altogether for whoever drops this one.
It’s a matchup of the top statistical defense in the conference in West Virginia and the best statistical offense in the country in Cincinnati. Cincinnati, though, is relatively awful defensively while West Virginia has sputtered badly on offense of late. I say the Mountaineers get back on track.
Embattled WVU coach Bill Stewart had a pretty hilarious quote this week. When asked whether a late hit on Noel Devine against LSU “changed” the course of the WVU season, Stewart responded “I’d rather not answer that. I think it altered it. It might not have changed it.”
So he says he doesn’t want to answer a question, then he goes ahead and answers it, but very confusingly. Saying their season was “altered”, but not “changed” reminds me of the Clinton “it depends on what your definition of the word ‘is’ is”.
Syracuse @ Rutgers – Saturday 3:30 PM, ESPNU
Syracuse hits the road looking to get back in the win column after dropping a tough one against UofL, while Rutgers will look to end a skid in which they have lost four of six. Rutgers has had a long week and half to prepare to host the Orange, so you can be sure they will be ready to go.
Rutgers focus will be stemming the Syracuse pass rush. The Scarlet Knights have allowed 4.4 sacks per game, dead last in FBS, and will have to deal with a Syracuse squad that blitzes, then blitzes some more. Rutgers went with a mix of runs and short passes last week to try to protect the passer, but they weren’t able to move the ball very well using that strategy.
Pitt @ UConn – Thursday night