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|AP Photo/David Kohl|
|Mardy Gilyard and the Bearcats were the class of the Big East during the regular season.|
1. Cincinnati (11-3, 6-1): True, the Bearcats did not play well in the BCS spotlight. But they were clearly the best team in the Big East this season, and a FedEx Orange Bowl loss to Virginia Tech cannot change that.
2. Rutgers (8-5, 5-2): The Scarlet Knights did not lose after Oct. 11, and only three other FBS teams had longer winning streaks at the end of the season. If they were playing any Big East team this weekend, they might well be favored.
3. Pittsburgh (9-4, 5-2): Pathetic offensive showing in the Brut Sun Bowl aside, the Panthers had a really strong year that deserves appreciation. Their Backyard Brawl win leaves them ahead of ...
4. West Virginia (9-4, 5-2): If the Mountaineers' offense had clicked all season like it did in the Meineke Car Care Bowl, they might have lived up to preseason expectations. The question now is, can the offense play like that in '09 without Pat White?
5. Connecticut (8-5, 3-4): Maybe Randy Edsall should have employed his every-down Donald Brown offensive strategy from the International Bowl the entire season. The Huskies might have had a better overall record. Still, 17 wins in two years is no small feat for this program.
6. South Florida (8-5, 2-5): The Bulls must think the Big East is the toughest conference in America. They were 6-0 against nonconference teams and 2-5 in league play.
7. Louisville (5-7, 1-6): The polar opposite of Rutgers, the Cardinals didn't win after Oct. 25, and their five-game losing streak tied for the sixth-longest to end the season. Sadly, things don't look much better for 2009.
8. Syracuse (3-9, 1-6): Doug Marrone's mission is to keep the Orange out of this slot every week. His first mission, anyway.