<
>

Top 10 of 2009: No. 1

Concluding the countdown of the best Big East games of 2009:

No. 1

Cincinnati 45, Pittsburgh 44, Dec. 5 at Heinz Field

Why this one: You were expecting Syracuse-Louisville, maybe? OK, there was never any doubt this would be No. 1, as it was the best Big East game of the past couple of years, at least. The league title and BCS bid were in the balance on the season's final day, and the two teams lived up to the hype. Pitt raced out to a 31-10 lead and had a 38-24 edge in the fourth quarter, but Cincinnati wouldn't go away. After a botched hold on an extra point left the Panthers up 44-38 with 1:36 left, the Bearcats drove the field and won on Tony Pike's 29-yard touchdown strike to Armon Binns.

What it meant: Cincinnati won its second straight Big East crown and finished 12-0. Pitt, which was 9-1 and in the top 10 with two games to go, had to settle for a 9-3 regular season and a trip to the Meineke Car Care Bowl.

Player of the game: The Bearcats' Mardy Gilyard caught five passes for 118 yards and a touchdown and piled up 256 kickoff return yards and a score. Special mention goes to Pitt's Dion Lewis, who had a whopping 47 carries for 194 yards and three touchdowns in the losing effort.

Play of the game: Trailing 31-10 with 1:26 left in the first half, Cincinnati needed a spark. Gilyard gave it to his team with a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown that reversed momentum going into the locker room.

Memorable quote: "Our guys are resilient," Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly said. "Our guys believe, I believe in them, and you've got to have that belief. We've won 18 consecutive regular-season games. Don't count us out."

Previously:

No. 2: Connecticut 33, Notre Dame 30

No.3: Rutgers 28, Connecticut 24

No. 4: West Virginia 28, Connecticut 24

No. 5: Cincinnati 47, Connecticut 45

No. 6: Pitt 24, Connecticut 21

No. 7: Cincinnati 24, West Virginia 21

No. 8: West Virginia 19, Pitt 16

No. 9: South Florida 17, Florida State 7

No. 10: Syracuse 37, Northwestern 34