- Brian Bennett, College Football
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Looking back on the biggest Big East week thus far:
Team(s) of the week: (tie) Connecticut, West Virginia and Pittsburgh. All three went on the road to hostile environments, and all three shut down opponents who had a lot to play for. This trio allowed only one offensive touchdown in Week 12 while separating itself from the rest of the Big East pack.
Best game: Not a lot of instant classics in Week 12. I'll go with Pitt's 17-10 win over South Florida, which at least had some second-half drama. West Virginia beat Louisville by the same score, but that game never felt more out of reach because of how the Mountaineers' defense shut everything down.
Biggest play: In the second half at Louisville, West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith turned to call timeout at nearly the same time as the ball was snapped and hit him in the back. Officials awarded Smith the timeout to the dismay of the home crowd. On the next play, Smith hit Noel Devine for a 48-yard pass play to the Louisville 2. That led to a Ryan Clarke touchdown, and the Mountaineers never trailed after that.
Best call: South Florida couldn't get much going offensively against Pittsburgh. But in the third quarter, the Bulls pulled off a beautifully-executed end around with true freshman Terrence Mitchell, who sprinted 45 yards for a touchdown that tied the score at 10. Unfortunately for USF, it was not enough.
Big Man on Campus (Offense): Isaiah Pead, RB, Cincinnati. There are career nights, and then there are video-game nights. Pead had the latter, scoring five touchdowns and rushing for 213 yards in a 69-38 destruction of Rutgers.
Big Man on Campus (Defense): Kendall Reyes, DE, Connecticut. Created two turnovers with an interception and a forced fumble, and both led to scores in the Huskies' 23-6 win at Syracuse.
Big Man on Campus (Special teams): Gregg Pugnetti, P, West Virginia. Bill Stewart called his punter "our player of the game" after the win over Louisville. Pugnetti averaged 44.9 yards on seven punts and downed two inside the 20 as the Cardinals brought the house at him over and over again.
Worst hangover: Rutgers. Sure, Syracuse and South Florida were virtually eliminated from the Big East race, and Louisville lost its second straight chance at a bowl. But how do the Scarlet Knights give up 69 points to a Cincinnati team that had been struggling for weeks? Things are not good in Piscataway these days.
Strangest moment: In the second half of the Syracuse-Connecticut game, Orange quarterback Ryan Nassib had one of his passes batted into the air by a Huskies defender. Nassib caught the ball himself, and then proceeded to throw another pass. Um, that's a penalty. My favorite part was the referee's explanation: "The quarterback cannot throw two forward passes on the same down." Insert quote from Dazed & Confused's Wooderson here: "It'd be a whole lot cooler if you could."
Now let's look ahead to the penultimate regular-season game for most and -- can you believe it -- already the final regular-season game of 2010 for Louisville and Syracuse (Games listed in descending order of interest/importance; all games Saturday except where noted):
West Virginia (7-3, 3-2 Big East) at Pittsburgh (6-4, 4-1): The Backyard Brawl as it should be: full of meaning for the Big East title. (ABC, Noon ET Friday)
Cincinnati (4-6, 2-3) at Connecticut (6-4, 3-2): The Huskies have to win to stay alive in the Big East title race. Bearcats have to win to stay alive for a bowl game. (ESPN3.com, Noon ET)
South Florida (6-4, 3-3) at Miami (7-4): The Bulls have accomplished many firsts this season. Winning a Big East title won't be one of them. But beating Miami would serve as a nice consolation prize. (ESPNU, Noon ET)
Boston College (6-5) at Syracuse (7-4, 4-3): The Orange's season will be judged a success no matter what happens the rest of the way. But 8-4 sure looks better than 7-5 with an 0-for-FBS record at home, doesn't it? (ESPN, Noon ET)
Louisville (5-6, 2-4) at Rutgers (4-6, 1-4): Loser is eliminated from bowl contention. Cardinals should be more prepared than they were two years ago in a humiliating season-ending loss. (ESPN2, 11 a.m. ET, Friday)
Looking back on the biggest Big East week thus far:Team(s) of the week: (tie) Connecticut, West Virginia and Pittsburgh. All three went on the road to hostile environments, and all three shut down opponents who had a lot to play for.