Thursday, December 3, 2009
What to watch in the Big East, Week 14
By Brian Bennett
1. The Big East Super Bowl: The last week of the regular season has never lined up quite so perfectly, as No. 5 Cincinnati matches up with No. 15 Pittsburgh for the right to represent the Big East in the BCS. Both have clearly been the two best teams in the league all season and look poised to put on a thoroughly entertaining show Saturday at Heinz Field. Cincinnati also still has designs on the BCS title game, which it could reach with a little help elsewhere over the weekend. Pitt looks for its first Big East title under Dave Wannstedt, while the Bearcats try to stay focused despite swirling rumors around their coach, Brian Kelly. This game has everything you could ask for.
2. The battle for other bowls: The Big East bowl lineup is a convoluted mess right now that might not be cleared up until Sunday morning. Teams can do themselves favors on Saturday by winning. While West Virginia may be headed for the Gator Bowl no matter what, Rutgers can stake a claim to the Meineke Car Care Bowl by beating the Mountaineers. Either South Florida or UConn could improve its destination depending on the outcome of their game in East Hartford.
3. The battle for postseason honors: Who should be the Big East's first-team quarterback? Right now, you might say Pitt's Bill Stull, since he leads the league in passing yards. But Tony Pike, despite missing four games with an injury, could overtake him by leading Cincinnati to a win. Pitt's Dion Lewis is probably the offensive player of the year, but Mardy Gilyard could make a case Saturday, too. And the defensive player of the year award, still mostly up for grabs, could be decided by a big performance on the closing weekend.
4. Can Rutgers stop The Streak? No team has been dominated by one opponent in Big East play quite like Rutgers has been by West Virginia. The Mountaineers have won every meeting since 1994, often in humiliating fashion for the Scarlet Knights. This year, Greg Schiano's team gets West Virginia at home and should at least have a fighting chance. It would be a big step for the program and a signature victory for this season's club to build on for 2010.
5. Power vs. speed: OK, it's not that simple. But there's little doubt that UConn vs. South Florida will be a clash in styles. The Huskies, though they've made great improvements to their passing game, still thrive on pounding the ball at you on the ground behind an imposing offensive line. South Florida lives off its speed, from its undersized but hyper-athletic defensive line to its scrambling quarterback, B.J. Daniels. Throw in a Florida team playing in potential snow flurries up north, and you've got your classic fish-out-of-water tale developing.