- Matt Fortuna, ESPN Staff Writer
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The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Rutgers celebrated a step into a new era this week by joining the Big Ten. Technically, it can celebrate a share of its first Big East title, too, but three other schools may eventually get to do the same.
If Rutgers beats Louisville on Thursday night, it is the lone Big East champion, with just one conference loss. If Louisville wins and if Cincinnati wins two days later at UConn, there would be a four-way tie for the Big East crown, with the conference's BCS berth going to the team ranked highest in the BCS standings, which would likely be Louisville.
One year after falling by 18 at Connecticut in a similar scenario to this year's, the Scarlet Knights failed to move the ball consistently against (again) resurgent Pitt. UConn blew a 10-0 lead at Louisville, came up with a big interception by Blidi Wreh-Wilson in the third extra session and then won it with a 30-yard kick from Chad Christen.
Hobbled by a left-hand injury, Teddy Bridgewater came back and led Louisville on a 13-play, 92-yard touchdown drive with 21 seconds left to set up overtime. He then absorbed a vicious hit on his knee in the extra session, only to come back in overtime No. 2 and hit DeVante Parker for a go-ahead strike.
Rutgers, meanwhile, notched just 50 total yards on 27 first-half plays against Pitt, going into the locker room down 21-0. Snow created for a hard surface, and hard hitting followed, with a number of players getting shaken up on the day.
Gary Nova landed on his shoulder early and left before eventually returning. Khaseem Greene left shortly before the first half after a big hit on a punt return, one he was penalized for, before returning as well. And Jawan Jamison was again limited from what appeared to be the same ankle injury that has bothered him the past couple of weeks.
Jamison eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the season, but Rutgers wasn't able to do much on the ground. Jamison finished with 14 yards on nine carries and Savon Huggins rushed for just 18 yards on eight carries as the Scarlet Knights dug themselves a big hole and were forced to abandon the run early.
Panthers running back Ray Graham closed his home career out in style, rushing for 113 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries. Tino Sunseri followed suit, completing 21 of 39 passes for 227 yards with two touchdowns.
Pitt is making good on its season of win two, lose two. And if the Panthers win at South Florida next Saturday, they will be bowl eligible.
UConn will be, too, if it can upset Cincinnati, as the Huskies have now won two straight Big East games after an 0-4 start. They can thank their rushing game for that, as Lyle McCombs once again delivered Saturday, notching 133 yards on 29 carries.
And of course, at the top, chaos reigns. Thursday should be fun.
4hDavid M. Hale