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After beating Virginia Tech in a neutral site game, I've got Cincinnati atop my ballot for this week.
1. Cincinnati - I remember once comparing Butch Jones and his disastrous first season at Cincinnati to Steve Kragthorpe and his first year at Louisville. Am I an idiot or what? The Bearcats lost Zach Collaros, Isaiah Pead, Derek Wolfe, JK Schaffer, and others off of a 10-win team last year and here they are again at the end of September: unbeaten with wins over Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech, ranked, and led by a new group of stars. It's time to stop looking at Cincinnati as a collection of guys that Brian Kelly whipped up and Jones just carried on. They've funneled through a number of talented players the past few years and now deserve to be viewed as a thriving program. Until someone beats them, or Louisville looks dominant again, I'll have Cincinnati up top.
2. Louisville - Louisville is frustrating. They've been dominating at times and other times looked disinterested and sloppy. I'm not holding Saturday nights ridiculous game against Southern Miss against the Cardinals. Nobody was going to look good in two inches of rain. But it's been two straight weeks where they've looked uninterested in the games and the opponents. They keep winning, so that's already an improvement over the previous two seasons. But, until they play a full, dominating game over a good opponent, they won't be at the top again.
3. Rutgers - Why have the Scarlet Knights third? Only reason to have them third is that the Arkansas win, a narrow win, suddenly looks a whole lot more pedestrian than we'd have thought even a week ago. Texas A&M just beat Arkansas 58-10. Still, Rutgers has the league's best defense and Gary Nova gives the offense balance. I wouldn't be shocked to see Rutgers undefeated when it faces Cincinnati.
4. Pittsburgh - Remember when we all had Pitt down at the bottom after the Panthers lost to Youngstown St. and got blown out by Cincinnati? Well, they've improved and now could very well compete for the conference title in their last year in the Big East. Rushel Shell introduced himself to America in the past two games, Tino Sunseri is thriving under Paul Chryst's offense, and the second half of the season schedule is very kind.
5. Connecticut - I never would've dreamed that UConn would be one dimensional. And by one-dimensional, I mean the Huskies can't effectively run the ball. Patience in Storrs is running think with Paul Pasqualoni, or at least with his offensive coordinator George DeLeone. The offense is bland and playcalling sometimes leaves you scratching your head. After losing at Western Michigan, UConn got away from Buffalo with a narrow win and should still find a way to sneak into a bowl. It's a shame the offense is so hard to watch, because once again Don Brown is fielding a heck of a defense.
6. South Florida - The Bulls played decently against Florida State but fell short. Skip Holtz is now 2-9 in his last 11 games against BCS conference teams. It's the end of September and the Bulls are already a long shot to make a bowl game. Just imagine if they hadn't landed that miracle pass to beat Nevada.
7. Syracuse - For a time, we thought Syracuse was the best 0-2 team in the country. Being fair, having losses to Minnesota, USC, and Northwestern isn't the worst thing in the world. The problem is that the Orange also struggled with Stony Brook. The effort level is uneven weekly, and it seems that for whatever issue gets fixed in one week, another crops up in its place. I still wouldn't be surprised to see Syracuse win a few Big East games, but, until they do, they'll be at the bottom of the rankings with Temple.
8. Temple - Most of what we thought in the preseason about Temple and its move up to the Big East has been the case. The Owls are a tough, physical team, but there are too many pieces just not in place yet to compete with the better teams on their schedule. Until the Owls can get off the field on 3rd downs and can throw the ball more effectively, they'll be at the bottom of the Big East's power rankings.