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Giving thanks in the Big East

This hasn't been the best year in the Big East by any stretch, but this week is a time to reflect on those things for which we are thankful. Here are some things that each Big East team can give thanks for this season:

Pittsburgh gives thanks for: The fact that there are no dominant teams in the Big East. The Panthers were picked to win the league, stumbled around during the nonconference season and have rarely looked sharp. Yet they're still good enough to be in first place with two games to go.

West Virginia gives thanks for: Jeff Casteel's defense and Geno Smith's health. The defense is other-worldly, and it has kept the Mountaineers in every game. In fact, you wonder how this team has three losses when it's allowing just 12.9 points per week. The record might be worse, though, if Smith hadn't stayed healthy all year, since West Virginia has zero experience at quarterback behind him.

Connecticut gives thanks for: The Big East leaders letting the Huskies back into the race. West Virginia lost four fumbles, the last one on the goal line in overtime, in its loss at Rentschler Field. Pitt gave up a kickoff return touchdown and fumbled another return to help the Huskies come back and win that game. That's why a 0-2 start has led to a pretty good position in the standings.

Syracuse gives thanks for: A return to the postseason. Home losses aside, this team has played its heart out and has overachieved all year. The Orange are going bowling for the first time since 2004, and their long-suffering fans deserve it.

South Florida gives thanks for: Breaking the streaks. The Bulls were no longer October flops. They shook off losing skids to Rutgers and on the road at Cincinnati and Louisville. A Big East title remains elusive, but this team has helped change the attitude.

Louisville gives thanks for: The arrival of head coach Charlie Strong and his staff. The difference in preparation, enthusiasm and player development this year compared to the three previous seasons is startling. The Cardinals found the right guy in last winter's coaching change.

Cincinnati gives thanks for: Those two Big East trophies in the trophy case. Suffering through a losing season (so far) in a coaching transition after major success is not easy, but it makes you appreciate the good times more. Cincinnati can also be thankful that things should get better under Butch Jones, as this team is extremely young at several key positions.

Rutgers gives thanks for: Health and safety. It has not been a good year for the Scarlet Knights on the field. But the scary Eric LeGrand spinal-cord injury should teach us all to be thankful for our health, to cherish our friends and to understand the sacrifices and danger that college football players face. And we can give thanks that LeGrand's condition is improving, while hoping that he continues to get better.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody.