There was some real reckoning in the Big East Conference this week, with USF’s loss at Pittsburgh. Not only did it drop the Bulls from the ranks of the undefeated, but the 44-17 margin set off alarm bells. The Big East’s two premiere football programs this season – West Virginia and South Florida – have suffered embarrassing losses in successive weeks.
Though it may prove an aberration, this lopsided loss will stain the Bulls season and further damage the Big East’s reputation as an undeserving BCS conference. Just at a time when the BE needed a team to showcase its promise, this type of loss – to a conference defector on top of all else – has served to confirm many doubts about the conference in general.
Meanwhile, the Big East college presidents met Sunday at Georgetown to map out growth and stabilization plans for the conference following the departure of Pittsburgh and Syracuse. The conference is at a crossroads. With realignment activity seemingly at a short-term halt, the Big East needs to bolster its football program before any further teams are lured away.
A team-by-team summary of Week 5 activity:
Pittsburgh (1-0, 3-2 overall)
Ray Graham has quietly become the NCAA’s leader in total rushing yards with 734. Todd Graham’s offense found a rhythm that was lacking in a narrow loss against Notre Dame a week earlier. The Panthers travel to Piscataway on Saturday afternoon to face Rutgers.
Rutgers (1-0, 3-1 overall)
The Scarlet Knights took a narrow victory away from the Carrier Dome, defeating Syracuse 16-13. After kicking a 47-yard field goal during its possession in the second overtime, Rutgers then recovered a Syracuse fumble to seal the win. Mohamed Sanu had seven receptions for 65 yards and a TD. The Scarlet Knights host Pitt Saturday.
West Virginia (0-0, 4-1 overall)
The Mountaineers defeated Bowling Green State 55-10 Saturday, holding the Falcons scoreless after the first quarter. Geno Smith threw for three TDs and 238 yards before the home crowd in the victory. They begin conference play against UConn in Morgantown at noon Saturday.
Cincinnati (0-0, 4-1 overall)
The Bearcats posted a 27-0 victory against Miami-Ohio in Oxford, Ohio. The rivalry is old but the lopsided win was predictable against the winless Red Hawks. Zach Callaros threw for 251 yards and a TD, but also tossed two INTs. Isaiah Pead had two TDs and 49 yards on 18 carries. Cincinnati has a bye this week.
Louisville (0-0, 2-2 overall)
The Cardinals were on the short end of a 17-13 score at home against Marshall. The Thundering Herd (2-3) scored 10 points unanswered in the second half for the win. Louisville held the lead until late in the game. A Teddy Bridgewater INT with less than two minutes remaining cost the Cardinals a comeback. They travel to Chapel Hill to face North Carolina at noon Saturday.
Connecticut (0-0, 2-3 overall)
The Huskies suffered a blow to their bowl hopes with a 38-31 loss to Western Michigan (3-2) late Saturday. The Connecticut defense, playing without starting corner Blidi Wreh-Wilson, gave up 479 yards through the air and sent the home crowd away shaking their heads. Lyle McCombs rushed for 124 yards and caught a TD pass from Johnny McEntee (300 yards, four TDs). Connecticut travels to Morgantown to face West Virginia Saturday.
South Florida (0-1, 4-1 overall)
Skip Holtz has to be frustrated with the Bulls performance Thursday. The head coach could saw his dynamic QB, B.J Daniels, stymied, while the Bulls usually stingy defense allowed Pitt 526 yards and 32 first downs. For better or worse, the Bulls have an off week on the schedule. They next play Connecticut Oct. 15.
Syracuse (0-1, 3-2 overall)
Before coughing up a fumble in the second overtime to seal a 16-13 win for Rutgers Saturday, Syracuse’s Antwon Bailey had rushed for 124 yards and a TD on 23 carries. The Orange also scored a TD on a 66-yard fumble early in the game. Syracuse travels to Louisiana for a game against Tulane in the Superdome Saturday night.