So, this is our last full weekend schedule in the Big East, with all eight teams play in conference games. Can you believe we are nearly done with college football’s regular season? It’s a little sad, but with college basketball, college football, and the NBA all aligning for a glorious couple months, I recommend you simply enjoy yourself.
This weekend’s schedule in the BE is essentially going to give us the closest thing to a playoff that you’ll see in college football, at least in the short term. The top six teams in the conference will be playing each other, meaning that we can expect a little separation (finally) at the top, which is desperately needed.
Pitt remains the favorites, but a loss this weekend to a South Florida squad that is playing some solid football would create a tie at the top in the loss column between as many as four teams. Let’s take a look at that games.
Game of the Week – Pitt @ South Florida – Saturday 12 PM, ESPN2
USF is a team that started 0-2 in conference, while Pitt started 3-0. However, a USF win at home would turn the tables completely and put the Bulls in a position to nab their first ever BCS appearance in Skip Holtz’s first year at the school.
The key to USF’s turnaround has been the play of their quarterback, sophomore BJ Daniels. Daniels is a superb athlete with a rocket for an arm. In his two years as a starter, he has made some unreal plays. However, he’s had problems with decision making and accuracy, making him quite turnover prone – he had 10 interceptions during USF’s 3-3 start. However, during his team’s three game winning streak, he’s thrown just one pick.
He will need to sustain that improvement against an aggressive Pitt defense.
Pitt, on the other hand, will be looking to rebound from a tough road loss to UConn, during which they allowed over 200 yards on the ground to Jordan Todman. Pitt has turned to the pass more and more often in recent weeks, but I expect them to rely heavily on their stellar running back duo with Dion Lewis and Ray Graham.
These are two tough football teams that like to run the ball and get after it on defense. I expect a very tight game that will come down to a few crucial plays.
Can’t Miss Games
West Virginia @ Louisville – Saturday 12 PM, Big East Network/ESPN3.com
West Virginia’s offense looked absolutely awful in consecutive BE losses. However, they find themselves in a position to reinsert themselves firmly back into the race for an automatic BCS berth thanks to stumbles by other squads and a very solid game last weekend against Cincinnati.
UofL, on the other hand, likely cost itself a shot at the BE title with their overtime loss last week against South Florida, but they won’t be short on motivation as they look to get their senior class to a bowl game. Besides, they aren’t mathematically eliminated yet and this year’s BE has been as unpredictable as you can imagine.
UofL has been a pretty consistent team since early in the season. They play solid defense and run the ball. Whether it’s Justin Burke or Adam Froman under center, the Cards don’t ask too much of their QB. With Bilal Powell back and healthy, UofL should be a good test for a West Virginia defense that has been among the best in the nation this year. The question for me in this one is whether the Mountaineers offense will offense will look like the one that beat Cincinnati or the one that sputtered against Syracuse and UConn.
UConn @ Syracuse – Saturday 7 PM, ESPNU
Syracuse has a chance to post a number and head into the clubhouse as they conclude Big East play against UConn. With a win, they finish at 5-2 and only Pitt has a chance to get to six wins. Although Pitt does have a tiebreaker on Syracuse, ‘Cuse very easily could win the conference if three or more teams finish with two losses.
The Orange, though, will have plenty of time to obsess over tie breaking procedures later, so the focus will unquestionably be on finishing a very successful season off strong, but UConn won’t roll over easily. The Huskies are fresh off of their best win of the season over Pitt. Additionally, they’ve had an extra couple days to prepare because their last game was on Thursday. Jordan Todman has needed that extra recovery time, because he carried the ball a career high tying 37 times the last time out.
It’s a familiar chorus in the BE this season, but this is a game between two teams who like to run the ball and play defense. I think the outcome will come down to which QB can make more plays and more effectively eliminate mistakes.
Only if You Have Family Involved
Rutgers @ Cincinnati – Saturday 7:30 PM, ESPN3.com
These are the two worst teams in the Big East, but both still have a chance at reaching bowl eligibility. Even so, it’s not a very compelling game. Cincinnati is just 3-6 overall, but their offense is among the best in the Big East, while Rutgers has struggled to move the ball all year. That and the home field advantage makes me favor the Bearcats.