Just when Pitt looks like it had separated itself from the rest of the pack, UConn goes and takes out the Panthers, putting the fate of the Big East’s BCS bid squarely in doubt yet again. Squads like South Florida, Syracuse, UConn, and West Virginia are all of a sudden very much alive.
Pitt is still the only team left in the conference with only one BE loss, with those other four teams are now within just one game of the Panthers in the loss column. In fact, South Florida and West Virginia will both play Pitt in the coming weeks, meaning that, to a large extent, they hold their fates in their own hands.
With five of the eight teams in the conference firmly in play for the title, there are far too many scenarios to even try to explore, so here’s a brief summary of the tie breaking procedure in the BE, because it looks like a tie at the top is very much in the realm of possibility:
In a two-team tiebreaker, head-to-head results determine the winner. In a three-or-more-team tiebreaker, the Big East football tie-breaker rules first apply head-to-head results among all three or more teams. If, as could happen this season, three teams end up in the tie, and all three teams have a 1-1 record against the others, the final tie-breaker rule is applied: Ranking in the BCS standings. The highest-ranked team in the BCS standings (at the end of the season) would be awarded the berth in a BCS bowl.
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UConn 30 Pitt 28
Jordan Todman had been a little quiet in recent weeks, but he came to play in a big way last Thursday night, gashing the Pitt defense to the tune of 222 yards on 37 carries. UConn also benefited from three Pitt turnovers and a kickoff return TD by Nick Williams. Dion Lewis and Ray Graham split the ball carrying load pretty evenly for Pitt, rushing for 77 and 75 yards respectively, and Tino Sunseri threw the ball fairly efficitely, but their turnovers were poorly timed.
The most memorable moment of the game for me was an audacious play call by UConn head coach Randy Edsall. UConn faced a fourth and one inside its own 20 yard line with under three minutes remaining. Rather than go the traditional route and ask his defense for a stop, Edsall called for a Todman run. Todman and the offensive line responded, and the Huskies were able to run out the clock.
West Virginia 37 Cincinnati 10
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Now THAT’S the offense that the Mountaineers have been missing in two consecutive low scoring conference losses. Geno Smith threw four touchdown passes in the first 23 minutes of this one, staking WVU to a big lead that they didn’t come close to giving up.
West Virginia’s defense has not been the problem in their recent struggles, and it again held up its end of the bargain as the offense awakened. Cincinnati was held to under 300 yards of offense, committed four turnovers, and converted no third downs on 10 attempts.
This game showed us why WVU looked like the clear conference favorite early this season and, thanks to Pitt’s stumble, they could easily live up to that hype.
South Florida 24 Louisville 21 (OT)
This one was billed going in as a battle for bowl eligibility. With the win, though, USF is positioned for a run at the Big East title.
However, it wasn’t pretty. South Florida had just 10 first downs and 260 yards on offense, converting only 2-13 on third down, but a couple big plays on offense, a TD return on special teams, and a couple turnovers forced, the Bulls got it done in OT.
Last week, UofL coach Charlie Strong drew wide praise for a gutsy fourth down call in the Syracuse win. Now, he’s dealing with the fallout of a failed attempt on fourth. On the first possession of overtime, UofL faced a fourth down and very short inside the USF five yard line. Strong called for a QB sneak, but Justin Burke was stuffed, allowing the Bulls to to go conservative and kick a field goal for the win. I like the call by Strong, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out.
Syracuse 13 Rutgers 10
Where oh where have the days of offensive shootouts gone in the Big East? I suppose its a positive development that so many BE teams are emphasizing running the ball and defense, but it’s certainly positive for my enjoyment in watching games.
Syracuse managed to pound out another one, running its record to 7-3, 4-2 in the Big East. With its early loss to Pitt, ‘Cuse is behind the eight ball in the tie breaker department, but the Orange will wrap conference play next week and would be the leaders in the clubhouse at 5-2 with a win over UConn at home.
1. Pitt 5-4 (3-1) – Probably not deserving of this spot at this point, but still at the top of standings
2. Syracuse 7-3 (4-2) – Need help to win the conference, but season already a huge success
3. West Virginia 6-3 (2-2) – Gotta like their chances after best performance of season
4. South Florida 6-3 (3-2) – Big opportunity when they host Pitt next week
5. UConn 5-4 (2-2) – They are dangerous when Todman runs like he did against Pitt
6. Louisville 5-5 (2-3) – They’ll take another shot at bowl eligibility next week
7. Rutgers 4-5 (1-3) – Cellar showdown vs. Cincinnati next week
8. Cincinnati 3-6 (1-3) – Big East champs to Big East basement in under a year