Weekend Rewind: Big East

December, 5, 2011
12/05/11
1:00
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Time to take a look at the week that was in the Big East:

[+] EnlargeWest Virginia
Kim Klement/US PresswireWest Virginia had plenty to celebrate after rallying to defeat South Florida last week.
The good: Defense ruled the day in all three games this past weekend. Four teams combined for five defensive scores. You can see more about that in my One Good Thing video later today. West Virginia is the new "cardiac team" of the Big East, after needing last-minute wins in its final three games of the season to get a share of the Big East championship and a BCS spot. The Mountaineers faced late deficits in all those games, and found a way to win. Against South Florida, it was Najee Goode with a forced fumble by B.J. Daniels that allowed Tyler Bitancurt to make the field goal to win the game 30-27. Running back Dustin Garrison had a 5-yard touchdown run for his sixth touchdown of the season -- but his first since the UConn game Oct. 8. Pat Miller had an interception return for a touchdown, the third defensive score of the season. The last time West Virginia got three defensive scores in a season was 2007. ... Cincinnati coach Butch Jones earned his third conference championship as a head coach (2007, 2009 Central Michigan) after the Bearcats claimed a share of the Big East. The Bearcats had two defensive scores, giving them six this season. That is the most since Cincinnati got seven defensive scores in 2002. Linebacker JK Schaffer has 103 tackles this season, becoming the fifth Cincinnati player to eclipse the 100-tackle plateau for three consecutive seasons. ... Pitt forced six turnovers against Syracuse, a season-high for the Panthers. The six turnovers are the most for Pitt since is recorded six against Ohio on Aug. 31, 2002 (five interceptions, one fumble recovery). Freshman running back Isaac Bennett got his first career start. The Panthers burned his redshirt once Ray Graham was lost for the season. ... Though Syracuse lost, Antwon Bailey went over 1,000 yards rushing this season, giving the Big East three 1,000 yard rushers (Isaiah Pead, Lyle McCombs).

The bad: The season could not have ended worse for USF and Syracuse. The Orange lost five straight to close out the year, and had six turnovers against the Panthers, essentially dooming their chances of making a second-straight bowl game. Syracuse played without defensive end Mikhail Marinovich, who sat out with an injury. That ended his team-best streak of 36 consecutive starts. The last time the rst-string defense took the eld without Marinovich was on Nov. 29, 2008 at Cincinnati. ... USF was able to get quarterback B.J. Daniels to start despite a bruised shoulder, but his late fumble against the Mountaineers proved costly. Daniels seemed hesitant to run all night and favored his shoulder, but he did have some good plays that sparked a Bulls rally in the second-half. But as has been the theme this season, the defense could not come up with a critical stop when it mattered most. Ryne Giddins was called for a personal foul penalty on what ended up being the game-winning drive. Had he not attempted to punch a player, USF would have gotten a stop on West Virginia. The Bulls ended their worst season since 2004. ... UConn moved to 0-5 in games at Cincinnati, though the Huskies gave it a valiant effort after trailing 28-6 at halftime. The Huskies had several wasted opportunities to score touchdowns inside the red zone, and close the season without winning consecutive games. UConn also was 0-3 on the road in Big East play, with losses to West Virginia, Pitt and the Bearcats. This is the first season the Huskies will not be in a bowl game since 2005.

Quick bowl look:

Belk Bowl, Dec. 27: Louisville vs. NC State. The Cardinals are the hottest team in the Big East, having finished the season 5-1, while the Wolfpack are probably one of the most inconsistent teams in the ACC. Louisville barely lost to UNC, which did lose to NC State. Cincinnati smacked the Wolfpack earlier this year, too.

New Era Pinstripe Bowl, Dec. 30: Rutgers vs. Iowa State. Fans might not be happy about not getting a vacation destination, but at least they get to stay close to home to see Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights have been good in bowl games -- 4-1 under Greg Schiano -- and get a team that has lost two straight since pulling one of the biggest upsets of the season.

AutoZone Liberty Bowl, Dec. 31: Cincinnati vs. Vanderbilt. The Bearcats lost to Tennessee this season, but this is a vastly different team than the one that dropped that game. Vanderbilt is absolutely much improved, but the Bearcats are going to be motivated to post another 10-win season.

Discover Orange Bowl, Jan. 4: No. 23 West Virginia vs. No. 15 Clemson. An offensive shootout is expected in this one between two of the more fun groups to watch. Love the matchup between Geno Smith and Tajh Boyd in this game. I still can't believe this is the first trip to the Orange Bowl for the Mountaineers.

BBVA Compass Bowl, Jan. 7: Pitt vs. SMU. How about the all-disappointment bowl in this one? The Panthers won a share of the Big East title last season and dropped to 6-6 under first-year coach Todd Graham. SMU won the West Division in C-USA last season, but finished 7-5, with losses in four of its final six games.

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