What we learned in the Big East: Week 11

1. Five for fighting: Making any pronouncements about the Big East race is dangerous business. But it now looks like a five-team race, which is better than the eight-team jumble we had on Friday. Pitt has a one-game lead after its loss to Connecticut on Thursday night, and UConn, Syracuse, South Florida and West Virginia are all ready to strike if and when the Panthers lose again. Louisville, Rutgers and Cincinnati are probably out of contention with three conference losses apiece, though anything is possible in this most unpredictable league.

2. Hello, Orange bowl: Syracuse will return to the postseason for the first time since 2004 after beating Rutgers 13-10 to earn its seventh win. The Orange might not be done there. They've only got one more Big East game left, this week at home against Connecticut, and could enter the clubhouse with a 5-2 league record that only Pitt could beat. Syracuse already owns head-to-head tiebreakers against South Florida and West Virginia. Doug Marrone's team amazingly won all four of its league road games, putting him in position to win Big East coach of the year honors.

3. West Virginia can, in fact, score: The Mountaineers had failed to break 21 points in their first three Big East games, going 1-2 and causing a near panic in the state. They broke out in a big way during a 37-10 win over Cincinnati. Geno Smith threw four touchdowns and the offense rolled despite an under-the-weather Noel Devine. The best development was that West Virginia stayed out of its own way, finally avoiding costly penalties and turnovers. But the performance also came against a Bearcats' defense that gets worse and worse every week and may not offer a proper litmus test. Speaking of which ...

4. The king is dead: You can officially put a fork in the two-time defending league champs. Cincinnati has lost three straight to fall to 3-6 and will in all likelihood be staying home this postseason after making back-to-back BCS games. Butch Jones' first year keeps getting tougher. The three conference losses have come by eight, 24 and now 27 points. The constant has been mistakes and bad defense. The Bearcats turned the ball over four more times on Saturday and have allowed their past three opponents to score at least 31 points.

5. A Holtz new era: That was the slogan this preseason in Tampa, and has it ever been true. Skip Holtz has certainly brought change to South Florida. The Bulls used to start off fast then quickly fade in Big East play. The opposite is the case now. After a slow start, USF has won three straight, breaking losing streaks against Cincinnati and Rutgers and winning Saturday in Louisville for the first time. With Pitt coming to town this week, the Bulls control their own destiny; if they win out, they can do no worse than tie for first place. They haven't been this much in the thick of the race this late in the year since joining the Big East. Credit Holtz with making this team tougher and better built for the long haul.