- Andrea Adelson, ESPN Staff Writer
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The calendar reads 2013, but it is time to take a quick look back at the best moments of the 2012 season.
Best moment, period: Louisville 33, Florida 23, Allstate Sugar Bowl. OK this game was technically played in 2013, but it still counts as the best moment the Big East had. Louisville may be headed out the door, but the Big East should own this moment, considering the constant beating it has taken over the past two seasons. Louisville is proof that the Big East can survive without its big-name programs. Remember, Louisville was only added to the Big East after the first raid took Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College. Since joining in 2005, the Cardinals have gone to two BCS games and have an up-and-coming football program. It stings that they are leaving, but the program has taken off under the Big East umbrella.
Best Big East game: Louisville 34, Cincinnati 31, overtime. I thought this was the most thrilling game of the season, and had folks talking Big East football on a Friday night in October. Cincinnati had 10-point leads in the first and second half before the Cardinals came back twice under Teddy Bridgewater. After Bridgewater threw the go-ahead 64-yard touchdown pass to DeVante Parker with 1:56 to go, Cincinnati did not cave. Munchie Legaux answered with a 26-yard, game-tying touchdown pass of his own to Damon Julian with 1:03 to go to send the game into overtime. One of the moments everybody will remember is the "Butch Jones shrug," after botching the ice-the-kicker timeout. Jones called timeout just before Louisville kicker John Wallace attempted a 30-yard field goal in overtime. The snap was high and the kick sailed wide. Wallace nailed the try that counted, and the Cardinals escaped with the win.
Best performance by a freshman: Tyler Matakevich, LB, Temple. Matakevich was an unheard-of prospect when the season began, but that all changed at the end of 2012. Matakevich won Big East Freshman of the Year honors after he completely dominated when he got his opportunity in the starting lineup. He ended up with double-digit tackles in seven of the eight games he started.
Best performance by a sophomore: Bridgewater. There is no doubt Bridgewater was the best player in the Big East this season, as he ended up throwing for 3,718 yards, 27 touchdowns and eight interceptions while completing 68.5 percent of his passes. His emergence gives the Big East a legitimate Heisman contender in 2013.
Best performance by a junior: Logan Ryan, CB, Rutgers. Ryan had another outstanding season as one of the premier shutdown cornerbacks in the country, finishing as an All-Big East first-team selection. He was second on the team with 94 tackles and was the only player in the nation with at least 90 tackles, four interceptions and 18 passes defended.
Best performance by a senior: Khaseem Greene, LB, Rutgers. There were plenty of outstanding senior performances this season, but Greene was the best of them, repeating as Big East Defensive Player of the Year. Greene ended the season with 136 tackles, six sacks and six forced fumbles.
Best comeback performance: Syracuse. When the Orange started the year 2-4, how many of you predicted Doug Marrone would become the next coach of the Buffalo Bills? Syracuse ended the season as one of the league's hottest teams with wins in six of its last seven games. Last year was the exact reverse -- Syracuse started 5-2 and could not win another game. Interesting how that all worked out, isn't it?
Best "firsts": Syracuse and Pitt both hit offensive firsts this season. Syracuse had a 3,000-yard passer, 1,000-yard receiver and 1,000-yard rusher for the first time in school history. Ryan Nassib finished with 3,749 yards passing; Jerome Smith had 1,171 yards rushing; and Alec Lemon had 1,070 yards receiving. Meanwhile, the Panthers had a 3,000-yard passer and 1,000-yard rusher in the same season for the first time in school history. Tino Sunseri finished the season with 3,288 yards, while Ray Graham had 1,042.
Best record: Big East 4-1 vs. SEC. Now this is truly something the Big East can brag about. The lone blemish belongs to Pitt, which lost to Ole Miss in the BBVA Compass Bowl. While it may be true that three of those four wins came against teams with losing records, you can't deny how important it was for Louisville to beat Kentucky and Florida; for Syracuse to go on the road and beat Missouri in November to clinch bowl eligibility; and for Rutgers to go on the road and beat an Arkansas team that was ranked in the preseason. Before the year began, many opined about the tough games for the Orange and Scarlet Knights on the road, particularly since they were late additions to the schedule. Neither opponent may have been as good as advertised in the preseason, but there's still no denying the enormity of the wins.