The Big East does not determine its conference champion by a championship game, but by who ends the season with the best conference record. As of Wednesday, three teams are vying for the AQ BCS bid representing the Big East: Cincinnati, Louisville, and West Virginia.
Louisville is at 5-2 (conference) without any games remaining. Louisville can become Big East champions by a West Virginia win and a Cincinnati loss (by virtue of having a head-to-head tiebreaker over West Va) OR by West Virginia and Cincinnati both losing.
Cincinnati is at 4-2 with one game remaining, a match-up at home against UConn. The Bearcats can win the Big East with a win over the Huskies and a West Va loss (by virtue of having a head-to-head tiebreaker over Louisville).
#23 West Virginia is also at 4-2 with one game left to play. The Mountaineers can win the Big East by a win over USF and a Cincy win. That would force a three-way tie. According to Big East bylaws, West Virginia would win the conference by being the highest ranked team.
On to the games.
#23 West Virginia Mountaineers (8-3, 5-2 Big East) at South Florida Bulls (5-6, 1-5 Big East)
Thursday, December 1s 8:00 pm ET – Raymond James Stadium, Tampa FL
After a home loss to Louisville on November 5th, West Virginia defeated Cincinnati the following week, and defeated Pittsburgh 21-20 in comeback win last Friday to put themselves in position to land a BCS berth.
The Bulls started the season 4-0 but have lost six out of seven of their last games. Three of those losses came at home, including a 34-24 defeat by Louisville last Friday. USF needs a win to be bowl-eligible and will have to attempt to win without their starting QB, BJ Daniels. Sophomore Bobby Eveld will get his second start since Daniels suffered a shoulder injury in the loss to Miami. Last week, the Bulls lost 34-24 to Louisville, ending the Cardinals season with a win in Tampa and a share of the conference title.
The Mountaineer and Bulls defenses were the Big East’s worst in conference play, with USF allowing 28.0 points per game and West Virginia 29.2. However, both squads are also the league’s top two offenses in yards in conference play, with WVU at 445.2 and USF at 406.8. USF has held WVU to 20 points or fewer five years in a row, winning three games in that span.
Connecticut Huskies (5-6, 3-3 Big East) at Cincinnati Bearcats (8-3, 4-2 Big East)
Saturday, December 3rd 12:00 pm ET – Nippert Stadium, Cincinnati OH
UConn stunned Rutgers last week 40-22 and can become bowl eligible if they can pull the upset once more. Against the Scarlet Knights QB Johnny McEntee went 10-of-16 for 90 yards and QB Scott McCummings attempted one pass, a completion for 22 yards, but rushed 47 yards and two touchdowns on 10 attempts. RB Lyle McCombs ran for 95 yards and two scores on 20 attempts and RB Jonathan Jean-Louis added 42 yards on 10 carries. The defense added a touchdown as well, a nine yard fumble return in the second quarter. Despite the Huskies giving up 371 total yards per game (7th in the Big East) and 23.4 points per game (6th), UConn has a capable run defense, holding opponents to a conference-best 84.18 yards per game on the ground.
Cincinnati was Big East champs in 2008 and 2009 and would like to share in the title this year. When the Bearcats take the field Saturday, they will already know if they will just share the title or if they have the opportunity to gain the BCS berth for the conference with a win over the Huskies. Cincinnati is third in the Big East in total offense, averaging 400 yards per game, and second with 181.64 average rush yards per game and scoring at 33.4 ppg. On the opposite side of the ball, the Bearcats are right behind UConn in rushing defense allowing 99.45 ypg, and just ahead of them (6th) with 369.8 yards of total offense allowed. Cincinnati is third best in the Big East in points per game, giving up 19.4 to opponents on average.
Cincy and West Virginia share the best overall record in the Big East at 8-3, with the Mountaineers being the only nationally ranked team. If West Va loses Thursday night, the BCS will have an unranked Big East school in a bowl game for the second straight year. Last season, unranked UConn won the conference and were defeated in the Fiesta Bowl by Oklahoma 48-20.
Dory LeBlanc, covers Gator sports for Gators First and BourbonMeyer.com. Not just a college sports enthusiast, Dory is also a fan of NFL, NHL, NBA, and MLB. Born outside Philly, she moved to Tampa, and now resides in Illinois, giving her a broad perspective on the sporting world. You can follow Dory on twitter @DoryLeBlanc