Sunday, December 2, 2012
What we learned in the Big East: Week 14
By Andrea Adelson
Time for our final regular-season installment of what we learned in the Big East.
1. Louisville is going to the BCS. And the most likely destination is the Orange Bowl. There is a chance, however, that No. 21 Northern Illinois jumps into the top 16 to take an automatic spot. If that happens, Northern Illinois would go to the Orange and Louisville to the Sugar Bowl. We will not know for certain until the final BCS standings are revealed tonight. If the Cards take their talents to South Beach, they will face future Atlantic Division rival Florida State on Jan. 1. If they are headed to New Orleans, coach Charlie Strong will face his former team in the Florida Gators on Jan. 2. Either way, Louisville got the BCS berth with an incredible 20-17 come-from-behind win over Rutgers on Thursday night, a victory that took just about everything out of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater -- playing with a broken wrist and sprained ankle. He was the hands-down story of the game, but it should be worth noting that Rutgers has this penchant for flopping on the biggest stage. The Scarlet Knights went 0-2 this season in trying to secure a BCS berth and 0-1 last season in trying to win a share of the Big East title. And back in 2006, they lost two Big East games after rising into the top 10 in the national standings. They did win a piece of the Big East this season, but that is little consolation to a team that had every opportunity to get to the BCS.
A broken wrist and sprained ankle didn't stop Teddy Bridgewater from leading Louisville to victory.
2. Four teams can call themselves champs. Although Louisville is representing the Big East on the biggest stage, Rutgers, Cincinnati and Syracuse can call themselves champs, too. Each team finished 5-2 in Big East play -- and the league recognizes all as champions. Many expected Louisville and Rutgers to have a good shot at the crown. Cincinnati has won its share -- four in the past five years. The biggest surprise is Syracuse, a team that started the season 2-4. The Orange didn't even play this week but were the biggest beneficiary when Louisville won. It is tough deciding whether Doug Marrone or Butch Jones did the better coaching job this season. Sounds like a Take 2 post between Tuna and myself this week! Stay tuned.
3. Pitt is going bowling. Seriously, you guys, I am pretty sure the Panthers could have rolled their helmets onto the field and beaten South Florida on Saturday night. That was one of the worst offensive performances I have ever seen -- a new school-low 117 total yards and four turnovers. It was incredible to see tight end Evan Landi move the ball better than Matt Floyd when he had to take a few snaps from center late in the game. But back to Pitt -- the Panthers are headed to a bowl for the fifth consecutive year, and they really got there the hard way given all the ups and downs of the season. Yeah, they might be headed back to Birmingham, Ala., which would be a downer for many of the upperclassmen on the team. But getting these extra 15 practices in is extremely valuable for coach Paul Chryst and the returning players, since there will actually be stability in the offseason. And here is a note that might surprise you (it surprised me). Tino Sunseri passed for more than 3,000 yards this season, and Ray Graham ran for more than 1,000 -- the first time Pitt has ever had a 3,000-yard passer and 1,000-yard rusher. Now imagine the possibilities moving forward.
4. Skip Holtz and Paul Pasqualoni turned in the most disappointing seasons. Both fan bases are getting antsy with the men in charge of their programs, and for good reason. USF and Connecticut, respectively, are the only two teams in the Big East that have failed to go bowling in consecutive seasons. That is not encouraging, when you consider how generally competitive the Big East is from top to bottom. Holtz is on the hottest seat, after his team completed a school-worst 3-9 season with a 27-3 loss to Pitt. When asked following the game whether he expects to be back, Holtz said, "I'd certainly like to be. There's been a lot of hard work that has gone into this, through players, coaches. There's a lot of underclassmen on that field ... a lot of young talent on the field. I understand the hardened position we've put a lot of people in, with the record that we have. ... I understand the nature of this business is to win games."