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Sunday, October 30, 2011
What we learned in the Big East: Week 9

By Andrea Adelson

What did we learn in the Big East in Week 9?

1. Separation. We have a clearer picture of the Big East race today, but by no means is anything certain. Louisville, West Virginia and Pitt each have one conference loss, right behind league unbeaten Cincinnati. The Bearcats, West Virginia and Pitt control their own destinies -- if one of those teams wins out, it heads to the BCS; Louisville needs help because it lost to the Bearcats. But at this point, it appears that one of those four is the most likely candidate to win the conference.

Teddy Bridgewater
Can emerging Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater help the Big East gain more national attention?
2. Growing up. If anybody thought Louisville would be in the conversation -- with home losses to FIU and Marshall this season -- then you were a big-time believer. The Cardinals have had one of the most anemic offenses in the Big East, and a defense that had given up way too many big plays. But they have consecutive victories in league play against two winning Big East teams and look as if things are starting to come together. The offensive line and running game have made huge strides, and so has true freshman quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Remember, Bridgewater is one of eight true freshmen starting for this team — we are watching the Cardinals grow up before our eyes.

3. Jekyll 'n' Hyde. If anybody knows what they are going to see from West Virginia and Syracuse next week, let me know. The Orange went from beating the Mountaineers 49-23 to losing to Louisville 27-10. The offense, so dominant last week, had a season-low for points. Quarterback Ryan Nassib was completely off all game, and Syracuse was unable to run effectively. The secondary had some of the same problems that has plagued it at various times this season. Meanwhile, West Virginia gave up 31 first-half points to Rutgers before pulling out a 41-31 victory. The defense played much better in the second half, but there appear to be some holes in the secondary that need to be addressed.

4. Life without Ray Graham. Pitt found out it would be without running back Ray Graham for the remainder of the season after he was hurt during a Wednesday night game against UConn. Losing your best player, along with another starting offensive lineman in Matt Rotheram and receiver Cameron Saddler, is probably not going to bode well for the Panthers. Wisconsin transfer Zach Brown will start in Graham's place, but quarterback Tino Sunseri will face more pressure to get the job done. He did it against UConn but he has been so inconsistent, there is no telling which Sunseri you are going to get on game days. He will be incredibly tested in the final four games of the season.

5. So long, Huskies? UConn dropped to 3-5 on the season and needs to win three of its final four to become bowl-eligible. With Syracuse, Louisville, Rutgers and Cincinnati left on the schedule, the Huskies face an incredibly tough task; each of those teams is .500 or better. They simply have not been able to get anything going on offense with Johnny McEntee at quarterback, but coach Paul Pasqualoni says he is sticking with him as a starter. UConn overcame steep odds to win a spot in the BCS last year. But the odds of making a return trip to a lower-tier bowl game are much steeper.