Cincinnati is in 2-0 in league play and gets to a BCS game if it wins out. But this is the wonderfully wacky world of the Big East, where we have come to expect the unexpected. The Bearcats are the only undefeated team in league play; USF is the only winless team. There is a five-way tie at 1-1.
Let's take a look at the league race headed into Week 9:
1. Cincinnati (2-0). The Bearcats are in the driver's seat, but it is not going to be easy to run the table. They are off this week, then play at Pitt, followed by a home game against West Virginia, then at Rutgers, at Syracuse and a home finale against UConn. Three of those teams have five wins.
2. Rutgers (2-1). The Scarlet Knights already have league victories over Pitt and Syracuse. To win the league, they have to win out and hope for Louisville to lose. They play West Virginia this week at home, then host USF, go nonconference against Army, home to Cincinnati on Nov. 19 and close out at UConn. It is huge for the Scarlet Knights to get West Virginia and Cincinnati at home.
3. Syracuse (1-1). The Orange have a big win over West Virginia, but also a loss to Rutgers. To win the league, they have to win out and hope for Rutgers to lose. The remaining schedule sets up nicely for a big run: at Louisville and at UConn, then USF and Cincinnati at home, before closing at Pitt. The Orange will be favored in at least four games, and maybe even all of them depending on where the Bearcats are going into that game Nov. 26.
4. West Virginia (1-1). OK, the Mountaineers had a bad loss. But there is hope for them to run the table, though three of their final five games are on the road. They go to Rutgers this week in a must-win game for both teams, then host Louisville, go to Cincinnati on Nov. 12, before getting Pitt at home and closing in a Thursday night road game at USF. The Mountaineers need to win out, then hope for Syracuse to lose, to win the league.
5. UConn (1-1). The Huskies scored a big win over USF, but they are going to face a steep climb to another BCS game with games remaining at Pitt, then home to Syracuse, Louisville, Rutgers and closing at Cincinnati. Unless their offense really gets going, it will be hard for them to run the table.
6. Louisville (1-1). After the Cardinals' huge win over Rutgers, all they need to do now is run the table and hope for Cincinnati to lose. I am not giving them good odds for winning out with their immediate stretch: hosting Syracuse, then going to West Virginia. They close with Pitt, then two road games: at UConn and USF.
7. Pitt (1-1). One of the preseason favorites to finish in the top two, the Panthers have disappointed. But they do only have one league loss, so they still have a shot to win the conference. They just have to win out and hope for Rutgers to lose. If Tino Sunseri does not improve, it will be extremely hard for the Panthers to do that with this remaining schedule: home to UConn and Cincinnati, then at Louisville and West Virginia before closing at home with Syracuse.
8. USF (0-3). The Bulls have been all but mathematically eliminated from the Big East race. No team has ever won the conference title with three losses.