After Syracuse dealt Louisville their first Big East loss yesterday, it's time to take stock of which teams are still in the race for the Big East title.
Note: This race is basically down to Louisville, Rutgers, and Cincinnati. Syracuse is a long shot, but they do have a shot. The Orange are currently 4-2 in the league, they have already lost to Rutgers and Cincinnati. This means the Orange need to beat Temple for a 5-2 finish. Then, they need the Cards lose to UConn, Rutgers to finish with three straight losses, and Cincinnati to lose at least two of its last three. In sum, they hold only one tie breaker with another contender, this makes them an extreme long shot.
Here it is, guys:
- Louisville, #19 BCS (4-1): UConn, @Rutgers
- Rutgers, #22 BCS (4-0): @Cincinnati, @Pitt, Louisville
- Cincinnati (3-1): Rutgers, USF, @UConn
Best case scenario for Louisville: The simplest way for Louisville to make a BCS bowl game is by taking care of business in their final two games. They still control their own destiny. They will win the league if they beat the Huskies and then take care of business in New Jersey on the 29th.
Best case for Rutgers: Rutgers, like Louisville, still controls their own destiny; but, they have more wiggle room because they are currently undefeated in league play and everyone else has at least one loss. Rutgers can beat Cincinnati, take a loss to Pittsburgh, and still win the league outright in their finale with Louisville.
Best case for Cincinnati: The Bearcats have a league loss to one of the other two likely contenders, so the only way for them to win the league outright is: (1) to beat Rutgers, thereby giving them the tie breaker with the Scarlet Knights; (2) have Louisville lose one, or even two more games; and (3) finish with a better record than Louisville, and at least the same record as Rutgers who they would then hold the tie-breaker against.
The non-best case scenarios
Louisville scenarios, 2 games remain (Note: Louisville can finish 1-1 and still win the BCS Berth):
- If Louisville loses to UConn, they need big time help. At that point they would be 4-2 in the league. They would need Cincinnati to lose one of their last three, Rutgers to lose at least one of their last three, then win the finale in Piscataway on 11/ 29. Should Louisville drop their last two games, and finish 4-3, they cannot win the league. Rutgers has three games remaining, if they beat Louisville, and lost the other two, then they finish with only two losses in the league.
- Assuming the Cardinals beat UConn, Louisville fans want Cincinnati to win their game against Rutgers, then have the Bearcats lose to to either USF or UConn, but not both. They also want Rutgers to lose the following week at Pitt. Why? Because that brings Louisville into the finale with the potential to lose, and still grab a bid to a BCS bowl game. This scenario gives Rutgers and Cincinnati two league losses. At that point the worst that can happen for Louisville, if they don't get a win in Piscataway, is a three way tie for the league title. If that happens, just like last year, the BCS berth goes to the team with the highest BCS ranking.
Rutgers scenarios, 3 games remain (Note: Rutgers can finish the season 1-2, and still win the BCS Berth):
- Rutgers wants Louisville to lose to UConn before their finale in Piscataway. At that point they would be alone at the top, as long as they take care of business against Cincinnati and Pitt. A loss to the Cardinals would still leave them with a 6-1 league record. At that point the best Louisville and Cincinnati can hope for is a 5-2 finish.
- The "must win game" for Rutgers, if they want to remain in control of their own destiny, is at Cincinnati next week. A win at Nippert Stadium means they would hold the tie-breaker against the Bearcats; and even with a loss at Pitt, they would win the league by defeating the Cardinals at home on the 29th. If Rutgers loses to Cincinnati they no longer control their own destiny. Why? Because without another Cincinnati loss, they could potentially finish the year with a win against Louisville, but not hold the tie-breaker against a Bearcats squad that could finish with an identical record.
- Should Rutgers lose to both Cincinnati and Pitt, they would come into the finale against Louisville with two league losses. At that point (assuming Louisville beats UConn after two weeks to prepare), Rutgers would need to hand Louisville their second league loss, and have Cincinnati drop their final two. This would mean Rutgers and Louisville would be atop the standings at 5-2, but Rutgers would hold the tie-breaker with Louisville.
- If Rutgers loses to Cincinnati and Pitt, then beats Louisville, but Cincinnati only loses one of their final two games, then the season would end in the three-way tie and the BCS standings would determine which team grabs the berth.
- If Rutgers loses to Cincinnati, beats Pitt, and loses to Louisville,... they cannot win the league or its BCS berth if Louisville has already defeated UConn. Why? Math. Louisville would then finish 6-1, and Rutgers would be 5-2. Should Rutgers' final games play out this way, with Louisville losing to UConn, they would still lose the league by virtue of being tied with Louisville but not holding the tie breaker.
Cincinnati, 3 games remain (Note: Cincinnati can finish 1-2 and still grab the BCS berth):
- Cincinnati does not control their own destiny. Even if they win their final three games to finish 6-1, giving Rutgers one league loss, they still need Louisville to drop one of their last two. Why? Because if Louisville wins out, then they win the league by virtue of holding the tie-breaker against the Bearcats.
- Cincinnati's "must win game" is next week against Rutgers. If they lose that game they are out of the race. Why? Because at that point the best they could hope for is a 5-2 finish with no tie breakers against Louisville or Rutgers; and those teams have one game remaining against one another. So, if they lose to Rutgers, the worst Rutgers can finish is 5-2 while holding the tie breaker over Cincinnati. This also means that means Rutgers would have lost to Louisville, meaning the worst Louisville could have finished is 5-2 with a tie breaker over Cincinnati.
- As stated above, Cincinnati is the only remaining contender (that isn't an extreme long shot) that does not control their own destiny. Even if they beat Rutgers, they would need help from the other two teams that are in the thick of the race.
Good luck, and Godspeed