MORGANTOWN, WV - NOVEMBER 25: Suporters of the West Virginia Mountaineers celebrate following a the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter against the University of Pittsburgh Panthers during the 2011 Backyard Brawl on November 25, 2011 at Mountaineer Field in Morgantown, West Virginia. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
We're now just one week away from the end of another college football season and possibly the last with the Big East as we know it. With a title chase that would make the annual baseball pennant chases jealous, heading into Friday's action, five teams were still alive for the league's BCS bid and all eight were still bowl eligible. After a pair of games on Friday and Saturday, the title picture is clearer, but will still be decided in the final week. Here's a look at where we are right now and how things will end up after next week's games.
Louisville at South Florida
The Cardinals completed their late season resurrection by beating South Florida 34-24. It was the first win the Cardinals have ever earned over USF in Tampa. Last year, USF got its first win ever in Louisville. The game didn't start well for Louisville as the Cardinals fell behind 17-3 on a trick play touchdown pass and when they were caught switching between punt and regular defensive personnel and left a Bulls receiver wide open. After the Bulls scored to take a 17-3 lead in the second quarter, Louisville outscored the Bulls 31-7 the rest of the way to seal the win. Teddy Bridgewater finished the game with 241 yards passing. The Cardinals clinched at least a share of the Big East championship with the win.
Pittsburgh at West Virginia
In what might have been the last edition of the Backyard Brawl for a few years, West Virginia rallied from a 20-7 third quarter deficit to beat rival Pittsburgh 21-20 and keep its Big East title hopes alive for another week. Geno Smith was held to just 244 yards through the air as Shawne Alston ran for two scores in the second half to give the Mountaineers the lead. The Pittsburgh offense was overwhelmed in the second half as West Virginia sacked Tino Suneri ten times in the game and nine times in the game's final 25 plays. Pittsburgh will face Syracuse next week with a chance to earn bowl eligibility.
Cincinnati at Syracuse
The Bearcats kept their own Big East title dreams alive by surging past Syracuse in the second half to beat the Orange 30-13. Munchie Legaux was lifted a handful of times from the game and third string quarterback Jordan Luallen was inserted to give the Bearcats a spark as a running threat. Comically, Luallen twice fell down at the one yard line only to have the Bearcats stall out and be forced into field goals. Still, Cincinnati rushed for 189 yards while holding Syracuse to just seven points in the second half. Cincinnati is still alive for a BCS bid, but will need help to win the conference. Syracuse will have one more week to become bowl eligible.
Rutgers at Connecticut
Rutgers eliminated itself from contention for the Big East title by getting blown out by Connecticut 40-22. In a game marred by turnovers and completely ineffective quarterback play, Rutgers fell behind 14-0 in the first quarter and trailed by as much as 30 in the second half before scoring twice late to make the score somewhat respectable. Rutgers lost three fumbles and threw three interceptions, which explains how the Scarlet Knights outgained Connecticut by 140 yards and lost by 18. Connecticut will play at Cincinnati next weekend with a chance to become bowl eligible with a win.
The Big East's field of contenders was whittled down from five to three by the results from this past weekend. Only Louisville, Cincinnati, and West Virginia can now win the conference's BCS bowl bid. All three can finish tied and win a share of the championship. Louisville has already guaranteed itself a share of the title as its season is over and the Cardinals finished 5-2 in conference play. The season comes down to Thursday night's West Virginia-South Florida game and Saturday's Cincinnati-Connecticut game. Here's how the champion will be determined:
- If West Virginia loses to South Florida, Cincinnati would win the Big East with a win over Connecticut on Saturday.
- If West Virginia wins and Cincinnati loses, Louisville would win the Big East by virtue of having a head to head tiebreaker over West Virginia.
- If West Virginia wins and Cincinnati wins, there would be a three way tie and West Virginia would win by virtue of being the highest ranked in the BCS rankings of the three schools.
- If West Virginia and Cincinnati both lose, Louisville would also win the Big East.
- If West Virginia loses and Cincinnati wins, Cincinnati would win the Big East by virtue of its head to head win over Louisville.