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Sunday, November 6, 2011
What we learned in the Big East: Week 10

By Andrea Adelson

What did we learn in the Big East in Week 10?

1. Cincinnati is the clear front-runner. There was separation at the top of the Big East, all right. Who would have guessed when the season started that Cincinnati and Louisville would be the top two teams after Week 10? The Bearcats remain undefeated in league play at 3-0, but they do not make anything easy on themselves. They have had to come back to win each of their conference games. They won each of their last two against USF and Pitt by three points. In no way are they dominating, but a win is a win and they have a big edge over the Cardinals. Louisville has won three straight to get to 3-1 in Big East play and emerge as a threat. But it dropped its first conference game to the Bearcats. So the Cardinals need help to get back to a BCS bowl game. The goal remains simple for the Bearcats -- win out.

Chas Dodd
Chas Dodd led Rutgers to a comeback win over USF.
2. Backup quarterbacks are in. Who led comeback wins for Rutgers and UConn? Their backup quarterbacks. Rutgers turned to former starter Chas Dodd in the fourth quarter to provide the Scarlet Knights with a spark after Gary Nova was not able to do much leading the team. Dodd and Mohamed Sanu keyed the tying scoring drive late in the fourth quarter against USF. Rutgers won in overtime 20-17. Meanwhile, Scott McCummings ran for two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to allow UConn to erase a 21-14 deficit and beat Syracuse 28-21. Neither Dodd nor McCummings was perfect. Each had his share of mistakes (and a turnover each). But both got much-needed wins.

3. West Virginia needs help. The Mountaineers were the preseason pick to win the Big East. But now they will need to win out and get plenty of help to have any shot of making it back to a BCS game. Perhaps the biggest disappointment has been the play of the defense in the past several games. Syracuse and Louisville had season highs for point totals against the West Virginia defense. Rutgers had a season-high 31 first-half points. The pass rush was there at times in a loss to Louisville, but it has not been consistent. The defensive play hasn't, either. Losing seven starters clearly has taken a toll, and West Virginia cannot beat teams with a good offense alone. That has been made clear.

4. Syracuse, USF reeling. Just in time to play each other Friday night in Syracuse. The Orange have dropped two straight; USF has lost four straight. Interestingly, neither team has been able to build off its defining wins of the season. Syracuse dominated West Virginia with 49 points but has scored a combined 31 in the next two games. USF squeaked by Notre Dame, beat three cupcakes and has lost its Big East games in all ways you could dream. After that Irish game, the possibilities for the season seemed limitless. After Syracuse beat West Virginia, some started dreaming about the Orange Bowl. Now both teams are left to figure out what has gone wrong.

5. Pitt falls short again. The Panthers lost yet another heartbreaker on Saturday, falling to Cincinnati 26-23. It was the third game this season they have lost by four points or fewer. The others -- Iowa and Notre Dame -- were not nearly as painful simply because the Cincinnati loss cost Pitt a chance to control its own chances in the Big East. Now the Panthers are 2-2 in Big East play and 4-5 overall, fighting to make it to a bowl game.