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Sunday, November 16, 2008
What we learned in the Big East, Week 12


Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

1. Nippert Stadium is about to have its biggest game ever: The venerable old stadium has been home to Cincinnati football since 1902, but it's never seen a game quite like Saturday's matchup with Pittsburgh. If the Bearcats win, they can start packing for the Orange Bowl, because there's no way they're going to lose to Syracuse on Senior Day the following week. Few saw this coming, but Cincinnati-Pitt will be the game of the year in the Big East -- so far. The Panthers would assume control of the league race if they pull off the road victory, but they'd still have tough games left against West Virginia and Connecticut.

2. Rutgers is going bowling: Greg Schiano would probably make me run stairs for looking ahead like this. You keep chopping, coach, and I'll go out on the limb. With four straight wins, the Scarlet Knights (5-5, 4-2 Big East) are one of the hottest teams in the Big East and have a great chance of winning their final two home games against Army and Louisville. Even at 6-6, they'll be a more attractive bowl option than some other league teams because of their remarkable turnaround story and rejuvenated fan base. On the other hand ...

3. South Florida may not make a bowl: It's hard to believe this is the same team that began 5-0 and was ranked No. 10. Since then, the Bulls have beaten only Syracuse while losing four times, bottoming out (they hope) with a 49-16 thrashing by Rutgers at home Saturday. At this point, I wouldn't bet on South Florida beating either Connecticut or West Virginia, which would leave Jim Leavitt's team at 6-6 and just 1-6 in the Big East. The new St. Petersburg Bowl will be played just 30 miles from campus. Would even hardcore Bulls fans make that short trip to see this team play another game?

4. UConn is finally settled at quarterback: After weeks of game-time "decisions" or "announcements" regarding his starting quarterback, Randy Edsall no longer has to play cat and mouse with reporters about who will be under center for his Huskies. Senior Tyler Lorenzen returned from a broken foot at Syracuse and will be the starter for the rest of the season. "There is no 'Or' next week. I will tell you that," Edsall said. Lorenzen's numbers (7-for-15 passing, 70 yards) won't blow you away. But when he's at his best, he manages the game and gives UConn another running option in the backfield, which suits Edsall's style much more than the passing attack the team tried in recent weeks. With Lorenzen, the Huskies have a chance of matching last year's nine-win total.

5. It's time for Daryl Gross to act: The Syracuse athletic director hasn't spoken publicly in seven weeks while the coach he hired continues to lose games. It was fine for Gross to want to keep the focus on the team's players last week leading up to Saturday's Senior Day. And maybe he didn't want to put undue pressure last week on Edsall, who's at the top of his wish list. But with the Orange having nothing to play for in the final two road games, Gross should go ahead and announce that Greg Robinson isn't coming back. Let Robinson coach out the season. But give your forlorn fans some small sigh of relief.