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Friday Big East mailbag

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

An early happy Halloween to everyone. I don't have any candy to hand out, but I can treat you with some answers to your emails (and I'll have thoughts to pass along during tonight's West Virginia-South Florida game):

Andrew from California writes: Since you keep getting questions about the Gator Bowl, here is an interesting predicament for Pitt. If they beat Notre Dame and then split WVU and Cincinnati they would have a better record than Notre Dame, would have beaten Notre Dame and would most likely still get rejected by the Gator Bowl. If they lose to Notre Dame and split WVU and Cincinnati, Notre Dame could likely make a BCS Game and Pitt would get the Gator Bowl. Since the Gator Bowl pays about $3 million and the next bowl pays about $700,000, Pitt has a $2.3 million incentive to throw the Notre Dame game.

Brian Bennett: You're not really suggesting that Pitt lose on purpose, are you Andrew? We know that will never happen. If I'm a Pitt fan, I root for the Panthers to beat the Irish and to go on and win the Big East, and I wouldn't worry about anything else at this point.


Mark from Pittsburgh writes: Cincinnati's drop in the rankings, despite a 31-point victory, is worrying me. Perhaps I'm just being pessimistic, but how far do you see Pitt dropping (if at all) in next week's rankings due to their bye week? Is there any chance they even move up with some teams immediately in front of them potentially losing to tough opponents (Oregon losing to USC, Oklahoma State losing to Texas, most notably) or would they just get leapfrogged?

Brian Bennett: It always depends on what everyone else does, but Pitt should be fine. The only thing that would change significantly is if teams on their earlier schedule win or lose to alter the computer rankings. In the end, though, Pitt's BCS ranking really doesn't matter, since the Panthers aren't national title contenders. They just need to focus on trying to win the Big East.


Nick H. from Cincinnati writes: So if Florida/Alabama go undefeated and Texas does so as well, I'm pretty sure that will be our national championship. But if Iowa and Cincinnati also run the table, what are the chances of Iowa meeting up with Cincinnati in a bowl game. I know the Big Ten traditionally goes to the Rose Bowl but in the BCS era the Rose Bowl hasn't always been a Pac-10/ Big Ten game?

Brian Bennett: There would be more of a chance of me dating Kate Beckinsale than your scenario unfolding, Nick. If that happens, Iowa would go to the Rose Bowl and play either USC or Oregon, depending on who wins the Pac-10. The Rose Bowl sticks to its traditional matchups unless it is forced not to, and an Iowa/USC or Iowa/Oregon matchup would be very appealing to that game.


Chad from Tampa writes: Cincinnati is ranked 6th, 7th, and 6th in the Harris Poll, the USA Today/Coach's Poll, and the computer rankings, respectfully. With each of equal weight in the BCS standings their average ranking is about 6.3. So how are they ranked eighth in the BCS? I'm not sure I understand this BCS thing.

Brian Bennett: It is confusing, Chris, and at the risk of embarrassing myself, I will try to explain. Basically, while the Bearcats are right around 6 or 7 in each component, other teams ahead of them have a significant advantage in either poll ranking or computer ranking. This is wildly oversimplifying it, but Boise State, for example, has averages of 5, 5, and 8, which is a total of 18, while Cincinnati's 6-6-7 is a total of 19. TCU is 7-6-4, for a total of 17. (Again, this is not exactly how the BCS works, but you get the idea).


Dreon from Louisville writes: Do you think Steve Kragthorpe should start Zack Stoudt (at quarterback)? He has a better arm than Adam Froman or Justin Burke. The season is pretty much lost so I see no harm in it.

Brian Bennett: Interesting you should ask that, since it appears walk-on Will Stein may start this week. Stoudt has been invisible this year. I don't know if he's hurt or just totally out of favor, but you would think he would have been given a chance by now if the Cardinals are down to Stein. I've never been nearly as enamored with Stoudt as some Louisville fans and don't think he's ready to be a starting quarterback at this level, however.


Jason from Charleston, W.Va., writes: You have stated repeatedly recently that WVU has no home field advantage because we lost two home games the last two years.So, based on YOUR logic, LSU has no home field advantage because they lost a home game in 2007, three home games in 2008, and one so far in 2009. Florida also has no home field advantage because they lost at home in 2007 and again in 2008. Ohio State has no home field advantage because they lost at hom in 2007, 2008 and again in 2009. So, spin away.

Brian Bennett: OK, this topic has officially gotten out of control. This started in a chat a couple of weeks ago when somebody asked me who had the best home field advantage in the Big East. I stated nobody, because every team (except Cincinnati) has lost a home game either this year or last year. A West Virginia fan then blasted me by saying it was obvious that the Mountaineers had the best home field advantage, which I countered with the fact that West Virginia has lost a home game at least once every year this decade (this year not included so far).

So to be clear: Yes, of course, West Virginia has a home field advantage. The best in the Big East? I don't see how you can make that case, given the record. The simple fact is, there aren't a lot of overly intimidating places to play in this league.


Mike from Storrs writes: In regards to your question on the possible rivalry between UConn and Rutgers, I would say there definitely is in the eyes of the fans. We have so much in common that it is only natural for a rivalry to exist. We recruit in the same areas, are geographically aligned, and are both up-and-coming programs competing to burst the Big East bubble regularly. On top of it all, I think there can be something said about New Jersey and Connecticut as states alone. We are surrounded by large markets like New York, Boston, and Philadelphia. I think each time is fighting to be relevant in a sports world surrounded by NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL.


Mike L. from Hillsdale, N.J., writes: Love the blog, Brian. I go to Rutgers and I see this game as the beginning of a rivalry, but they need to make it a trophy game to really put it over the edge for a full-blown rivalry. Both schools could really use the huge rivalry game, especially since UConn is basically still a young program and Rutgers hasn't had a good rivalry since Princeton.

Brian Bennett: Thanks for the input, guys. I see this as a game that's becoming a rivalry. It still needs more time to develop. But I love Mike's idea of a trophy. If Cincinnati and Pitt can start a trophy series, why not UConn and Rutgers? Someone needs to get on that.


Ben L. from Cincinnati writes: As a Bearcats fan, whom do I root for Saturday in the USC-Oregon showdown? The obvious answer would seem to be "root against Southern Cal," but do you think the No. 10 Ducks would jump No. 8 UC in the BCS if they win? Would the 'Cats have a better chance to jump a one-loss USC or a one-loss Oregon in the BCS standings?

Brian Bennett: That's an excellent question, and you missed another factor here, Ben. If Oregon wins, it makes Boise State look that much better, and the Broncos and Ducks could both be ahead of Cincinnati. I think, then, that you either want to root for USC and hope the argument that a one-loss team shouldn't jump an undefeated team sticks (as it should), or root for Oregon and hope the Ducks lose later (in the Civil War, perhaps?). Speaking of Oregon, see next question.


Anthony from Pittsburgh writes: Why defect from your Big East Blog loyalties and commit to Oregon (albeit under a different spelling of your first name)? I know you're from the West Coast, but you should've given the East Coast a test drive.

Brian Bennett: You caught me, Anthony. I had to change the spelling and go out West, because if you'll remember, I've already used up my eligibility as a Big East player.