Sunday, November 25, 2012
What we learned in the Big East: Week 13
By Andrea Adelson
What did we learn in the Big East in Week 13? Glad you asked.
1. Nothing is ever easy in the Big East. Does anybody want to win the conference? The two ranked teams in the league dropped games to teams with LOSING records on Saturday. No. 18 Rutgers choked at Pitt -- the second year in a row the Scarlet Knights fell to a losing team with a Big East title on the line. The Scarlet Knights could have won the league championship outright AND a BCS bowl berth had they won, because No. 20 Louisville went ahead and lost to offensively challenged UConn in three overtimes. At home. In the end, Rutgers backed into at least a share of its first Big East championship, but this is not the way anybody in Piscataway envisioned it happening. Now, as anticipated, the game between Rutgers and Louisville on Thursday night in New Jersey is for a BCS bowl berth. But how excited can a Big East fan get about a matchup of two teams that had major letdowns Saturday?
Nursing a broken wrist and a bum leg, one can only wonder about Teddy Bridgewater's effectiveness against Rutgers.
2. M*A*S*H Saturday. The list of starters who got hurt Saturday reads like a M*A*S*H Unit: Quarterbacks Gary Nova, Chandler Whitmer and Teddy Bridgewater; running back Jawan Jamison; and linebacker Khaseem Greene. All but Whitmer were able to go back into their games and play. Afterward, each injured player insisted he would be ready for Week 14. The one who poses the biggest concern is Bridgewater, who played the second half with a broken wrist, then sustained a leg injury late in the game. Louisville oach Charlie Strong said Bridgewater would be fine, but how effective will he be, particularly if Rutgers comes after him the way UConn did?
3. Pitt, UConn remain in bowl contention. Most everybody had written off Pitt and UConn heading into their respective games Saturday, considering their opponents. But both pulled off upset victories and need a win in their regular-season finales to get back to a bowl game. We should have known Pitt would come back strong following its bye, considering the Panthers have this strange trend of losing two games, then winning two games. They had dropped two going into their contest at Rutgers, so the pattern called for a win. Tino Sunseri played pretty perfectly, and Ray Graham rushed for more than 100 yards against one of the best defenses in the Big East. As for the Huskies, they showed signs of life under Johnny McEntee in overtime. UConn has now scored 47 total points in back-to-back games after scoring 33 in its previous four games combined. Pitt plays at USF next week; UConn hosts Cincinnati.
4. Syracuse and Cincinnati can win Big East titles, too. Although neither team has a shot at representing the Big East in the BCS, both have hopes of winning at least a share of the Big East title. If Louisville beats Rutgers and Cincinnati beats Connecticut, four teams will finish in a tie for first place. Each would be declared Big East champion. While winning titles is old hat for the Bearcats, it's not for Syracuse. The Orange last won at least a share of a Big East title back in 2004, when there also was a four-way tie for first. It would be something if the Big East had to crown champions headed out the door for new conferences in consecutive seasons. Syracuse coach Doug Marrone deserves a tremendous amount of credit for turning around a team that opened the year 2-4. This title shot is reminiscent of the turnaround Louisville made last season.
5. Temple closes its first Big East season. The Owls wrapped up Year 1 in the Big East with their first losing record since 2008, but coach Steve Addazio will tell you that not all was lost this season. Most everybody picked Temple to finish last in the league. But the Owls did win two games -- including one over current last-place team USF. Montel Harris rushed for more tha 1,000 yards, and many freshmen gained valuable playing experience to set them up for the future. This was a year for Temple to gauge where it stands in a tougher conference. Many will expect much more improvement in Year 2.