What we learned in the Big East bowls

January, 9, 2013
1/09/13
11:00
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It's hard to believe, but the 2012 season is over. That was fast. So what did we learn during bowl season? Glad you asked.

1. Louisville gets national recognition. One of the best ways to earn respect in college football -- beat a top-5 team from the SEC. Louisville sent the college football world into a tizzy with its 33-23 win over Florida in the Allstate Sugar Bowl because, well, teams from the Big East are not supposed to beat teams from the SEC. Especially in BCS games. At least that is the old script. The new script? Teams from the Big East are, well, yeah OK, they are not too bad. Not when you have an All-American-caliber player in Teddy Bridgewater running the show. Bridgewater made a statement -- and got his Heisman campaign underway in the victory. Louisville vaulted eight spots in the AP poll to finish No. 13. Bigger things are in store.

[+] EnlargeLouisville's Teddy Bridgewater
Chuck Cook/USA TODAY SportsTeddy Bridgewater gets a thumbs up for a bowl performance that jump-started next season's Heisman campaign.
2. Another winning bowl record. I know Big East fans get tired of the naysayers, but all they have to do is point to the facts -- the Big East went 3-2 during bowl season, joining the ACC and SEC as the automatic qualifying conferences with a winning bowl record. That marks seven straight seasons for the Big East. For those who want to say the league is crumbling, the Big East would still have a winning bowl record without departing teams Rutgers, Pitt, Syracuse and Louisville. They went 2-2 in their bowl games. Incoming teams UCF, SMU and San Diego State (maybe?) went 2-1. That would still give the future Big East a 3-1 bowl record.

3. Syracuse has some major talent in the backfield. The Orange finished their final game in the Big East with an impressive 38-14 win over West Virginia in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, and their backfield talent was on full display. Prince-Tyson Gulley ran for a career-high 213 yards in the second-best bowl performance by any running back, while 1,000-yard rusher Jerome Smith added 152 yards. And Syracuse did it without suspended running back Adonis Ameen-Moore. I know the Orange will lose a lot as they move on to the ACC, but their backfield is going to be in terrific hands.

4. Paging Rutgers' offense. The Scarlet Knights managed 196 yards of total offense against a down Virginia Tech team in a game that most will remember for the way coach Kyle Flood stuck with Gary Nova despite another off game. But as Flood explained earlier this week, "If I felt like the quarterback wasn’t playing well, but the rest of the offense was and I felt like a change could have a significant impact then you consider it. But in that game on offense, there were not a lot of things going right at any position. To expose somebody who hadn’t been in the game and to put him in that, I didn’t see what kind of positive outcome that could have." So if the offensive struggles are not only on Nova, this does not bode well for 2013, considering the offense returns more starters than the defense and Jawan Jamison is gone.

5. Cincinnati showed up. The talk going into the Belk Bowl was that Cincinnati would have a hard time focusing, what with coach Butch Jones gone, along with half the staff. Only five assistants stuck around to coach bowl practices, leaving the Bearcats at a serious disadvantage. It looked that way early against Duke, but I give the Bearcats helmet stickers for not letting a bad quarter and a half lead to an entire-game meltdown. The Bearcats showed their moxie in a 48-34 come-from-behind win over Duke, getting them to 10 wins for the fifth time in six seasons. Shorthanded no less. All Cincinnati does is keep on winning.

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