Wednesday, November 7, 2012
What's left to play for in the Big East
By Matt Fortuna
With the regular season roughly three-fourths complete, most teams have a good sense of where they stand, where they could go and where they could fall. The Big East title race remains open, and a number of teams have postseason berths in sight.
With that, I'm taking a team-by-team look in the conference at what is keeping each squad going.
Louisville (9-0, 4-0 Big East)
Playing for: A national title? Highly unlikely for the undefeated, No. 9 Cardinals even if they run the table considering there are two two-loss teams ahead of them in the BCS standings. Still, being the first undefeated team in school history is motivation enough, regardless of the bowl destination, and the Big East title that would come with that. QB Teddy Bridgewater has a shot at getting to New York for the Heisman ceremony if he keeps his level of play up.
Rutgers (7-1, 4-0)
Playing for: The school's first Big East title is very much up for grabs, considering the Scarlet Knights' only loss came to Kent State. Games against Cincinnati and Louisville remain, but Rutgers controls its Big East destiny under first-year coach Kyle Flood. Khaseem Greene looks on his way to defending his conference defensive player of the year trophy too.
Cincinnati (6-2, 2-1)
Playing for: One more win and the Bearcats are bowl eligible -- two of their six wins have come against Football Championship Subdivision teams. But Cincinnati always has bigger goals in sight, and at least a share of a fourth Big East title in five years is not out of the question. Win out, hope Louisville loses twice, and Cincinnati could be all alone atop the conference at season's end.
Syracuse (4-5, 3-2)
Playing for: The Orange are looking to get back to a bowl game after losing five straight games to close last season. A tough nonconference slate and numerous self-inflicted wounds this season have gotten in the way, and they are tasked with winning two of their final three games (Louisville, at Missouri, at Temple) to make that happen.
Temple (3-5, 2-3)
Playing for: The Owls already exceeded expectations in the eyes of many by winning their first two Big East games in their return to the conference -- their first Big East winning streak ever. They would have to win their final three games to become bowl eligible, though a potential 12th game at Hawaii could provide them another opportunity. Temple has likely played its way out of the Big East cellar in its return.
Pittsburgh (4-5, 1-3)
Playing for: Pretty simple: Win Friday at UConn and Dec. 1 at USF to become bowl eligible. (Beating Rutgers is an option too.) The Panthers have come a long way since their horrendous start, but if they don't win two of their final three, they will surely be kicking themselves for letting last week's Notre Dame game slip away.
South Florida (3-6, 1-4)
Playing for: Bowl eligibility remains possible, though it's hardly an ideal goal after entering the season as the conference's No. 2 team. Not having B.J. Daniels under center will make that task all the more difficult. Games at Miami, at Cincinnati and against Pitt remain, and while three straight wins are unlikely, valiant efforts will speak highly of coach Skip Holtz, whose seat has heated up amid a six-game losing streak.
Connecticut (3-6, 0-4)
Playing for: Winning out will get the Huskies bowl eligible for the first time in Paul Pasqualoni's two-year tenure, but that seems unlikely for a team that has scored three second-half points since September, especially with Pitt, Louisville and Cincinnati awaiting. On the verge of missing the postseason in consecutive years for the first time since 2005-06, UConn needs to develop some momentum, particularly on offense, going into next season.