Week 8 review/Week 9 preview


Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

I didn't come here to talk about the past.

Wait, scratch that. Let's review Week 8 in the Big East.

Team of the week: Connecticut. I never give this award to a losing team, but here is a special exemption for the Huskies. They gave everything they had after an unbelievably sad, trying week following the Jasper Howard homicide and came within a couple of minutes of beating West Virginia for the first time.

Team of the week, Part II: Cincinnati and Pittsburgh (tie). I had to create a second category to recognize the tremendous performances by the Bearcats and Panthers, who each scored 41 points in registering a blowout conference victory. Cincinnati did it despite not having Tony Pike. Pitt destroyed a team that was in the Top 25 earlier this month.

Best game: The UConn-West Virginia game was the only non-blowout of the weekend, and it had enough story lines to spare. From the pre-game tributes to Jarrett Brown's return to Kashif Moore catching a touchdown pass a week after holding a dying Howard in his arms to fourth quarter heroics, this 28-24 game had it all.

Biggest play: Noel Devine's 56-yard touchdown run with 2:10 left made the difference against UConn. It was classic Mountaineers football, with Devine taking a zone-read handoff from Jarrett Brown and zipping around the corner past defenders. His biggest challenge was staying in bounds as he tiptoed the sidelines on his way to pay dirt.

Best call: To Brian Kelly for not playing Pike. It had to be tempting for Kelly to go with his star quarterback in a conference game, especially since Pike had practiced during the week and proved last year he could play through a broken left arm. But there was no need to endanger Pike for the rest of the year with BCS title hopes attainable. And Zach Collaros made sure Pike wasn't missed against Louisville.

Big Man on Campus (Offense): Pitt's offensive line. I'm breaking a lot of rules this week, including the bestowing of this award on an entire unit instead of one player. But the Panthers' offensive front was simply outstanding against a South Florida defensive line that had been terrorizing everybody. Offensive linemen don't get enough credit anyway. So, mad props to Jason Pinkston, Lucas Nix, Robb Houser, John Malecki and Joe Thomas, plus tight end Nate Byham and the running backs, for building a fortress around quarterback Bill Stull.

Big Man on Campus (Defense): Syracuse's Derrell Smith had nine tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble as the Orange shot down Akron 28-14.

Big Man on Campus (Special teams): West Virginia true freshman Tavon Austin returned the opening kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown against UConn. That proved to be a crucial play, as the Mountaineers won by just four points.

Worst hangover: South Florida. We need some fraud protection against this program. The Bulls have lost their last two games by a combined 41 points, killing any thought that this would be the year for a Big East breakthrough. At least the last two years the team had injuries to blame for its October free falls. This year's team appears to be relatively healthy. Physically, if not mentally.

Strangest moment: Louisville's leading passer against Cincinnati was walk-on Will Stein, who came in after both Adam Froman and Justin Burke got hurt and were ineffective. Stein, who's roster measurement of 5-foot-10 must have been taken in high heels, finished with 98 passing yards. Remember when the Cardinals were Quarterback U., with a long line of prolific passers including Brian Brohm, Stefan LeFors, Dave Ragone, Chris Redman, Jeff Brohm, Browning Nagle, etc? Now they can't even get a guy over 100 yards in a game.

Now let's change the channel to Futurama. Here's a quick preview of Week 9 (Games listed in descending order of importance and interest):

No. 21 West Virginia (6-1, 2-0) at South Florida (5-2, 1-2): The last time West Virginia came to Tampa on a Friday night, it limped home in defeat with an injured Pat White. South Florida is the one hobbling into this game. Still, this looks like the best game of a weak week.

No. 8 Cincinnati (7-0, 3-0) at Syracuse (3-4, 0-2): This the last road game until Dec. 5 for the Bearcats. Looking forward to seeing Brian Kelly's offense on the Carrier Dome turf. Last time there, Cincinnati scored 52 points.

Rutgers (5-2, 0-2) at Connecticut (4-3, 1-2): This is developing into a pretty decent Northeast rivalry. Both teams are fighting for a Big East bowl spot and need to win this swing game.

Arkansas State (2-4) at Louisville (2-5, 0-3): Let's just say that it's a good thing the expanded Papa John's Stadium isn't opening this week.

Bye: Pittsburgh