With over 40% of Big East play over and done with (24 of 56 games to be exact), this past weekend might come to be known as “Separation Saturday (and Friday)”, because we now have two teams with three wins in conference in Pitt (3-0) and Syracuse (3-1) while none of the other six teams has more than a single win.
Pitt was one of the squads we expected to see contend for the league’s spot in the BCS, so it should come as no surprise that they top the standings at this point in the season. However, Syracuse was not a favorite to do much of anything. Doug Marrone, though, has his alma mater in a spot it hasn’t been in since the early 2000′s: relevant in its conference and bowl eligible.
With a win this past weekend, Marrone has all but sewn up coach of the year honors in the Big East, barring a stunning season ending run by, say Louisville. I don’t think enough can be said for what he has done for the Orange. Even though the Big East is far from a power conference, they have competed all season long, won some games people didn’t think they would, and recovered from a couple blowout losses.
Unfortunately for the Orange, their lone loss in-conference came at the hands of the team that currently has a half game lead on them for first place, so they will need Pitt to lose at leas two games to even have a chance to take over the top spot.
Here are the finals from this week’s games.
UConn 16 West Virginia 13 (OT-Friday)
You have to think the honeymoon is over and done with Bill Stewart. He won a BCS bowl in his first game as coach a couple years ago, but this season has been ugly. They escaped an early season loss to Marshall and looked to be clear favorites to return to another BCS game. Now, they’ve lost consecutive tight games because their offense couldn’t score the ball.
Last week, they really couldn’t move the ball against Syracuse, while this week, they were taken to overtime because their ball carriers just could not hold onto the football. They fumbled seven times in the game, losing four, including on the first possession of overtime just shy of the goal line, allowing UConn to simply kick a field goal to get a win that takes them back to .500.
The Mountaineers outgained the Huskies 414-278 for the game, but as we all know, that means pretty much nothing if you turn the ball over.
Pittsburgh 20 Louisville 3
This game was a pretty competitive defensive battle in the first half, as Pitt entered halftime with a 6-3 lead, but a Pitt touchdown in both the third and fourth quarters on runs by Dion Lewis and Ray Graham gave the first place Panthers a W.
It was really a pretty strange affair. Due to a number of long drives with no big plays to speak of, each team had just five possessions through three quarters. However, in the fourth quarter, neither offense could stay on the field. There were a combined 10 possessions, one ended in a TD, five in punts, one in a missed field goal, one in an interception, and one at the end of regulation.
Pitt had just 255 yards on offense for the game, but UofL had a mere 185. After QB
Abe Adam Froman looked capable early, he couldn’t do anything late, finishing with just 82 yards passing on 25 attempts. Bilal Powell led the team in rushing again with 64 yards, but was forced out of the game with a knee injury. We aren’t sure about the severity of the injury at this point, but losing him for any amount of time would be pretty significant.
Syracuse 31 Cincinnati 7
Take a look at the box score of this one and you’ll scratch your head, because it sure doesn’t look like a 31-7 blowout. Yardage totals were nearly dead even, Cincinnati was great on third down (11-18), and ‘Cuse had just one more takeaway than Cincinnati.
Syracuse just capitalized on every opportunity they had, scoring 17 points on Cincinnati’s three turnovers, two of which were committed by QB Chazz Anderson, who struggled in place of injured QB Zach Collaros. Let’s be honest here: QB’s with the name Chazz (especially with two z’s) are usually going to struggle.
1. Pittsburgh 5-3 (3-0) – The favorites, but will face three road tests in last four
2. Syracuse 6-2 (3-1) – The defense gets it done, ranked in the top 20 nationally
3. West Virginia 5-3 (1-2) – It’s an uphill battle to win the BE, but a trip to Pitt makes it possible
4. South Florida 4-3 (1-2) – Off this weekend, but losses by others give them a boost
5. Rutgers 4-3 (1-1) – Welcome bye week gave them chance to regroup after LeGrand injury
6. Louisville 4-3 (1-2) – Uncertain status of Powell knocks them down
7. UConn 4-4 (1-2) – I did not see WV win coming
8. Cincinnati 3-5 (1-2) – They don’t feel like the worst team in the BE, but I can’t make sense of bottom half