While most college football fans spend their time analyzing matchups and tracking conference playoff and bowl game possibilities, Big East fans read accounts of what schools are leaving the conference, what schools will (eventually) be invited to join, and how many non-AQ programs are more deserving of a BCS berth than “any” team coming out of the Big East.

Despite all this, the conference will send its championship team to a BCS bowl (most likely the Orange Bowl, which has the last pick this year). At present, Cincinnati has the best chance of gaining that BCS slot, but with four games remaining and mediocrity prevailing throughout the conference, anything can happen – literally.

#23 Cincinnati Bearcats 3-0 / 7-1 (conference / overall)

With wins in hand against Louisville, South Florida and Pittsburgh, the Bearcats have the only conference record without blemish. They have won six consecutive games and host West Virginia this Saturday, followed by consecutive road trips to Rutgers and Syracuse. They close out the season in Nippert Stadium against UConn. Led by QB Zach Calleros (1784 yards, 14 TDs, 8 INT/245 yards, 8 rushing TDs) and RB Isaiah Pead (821 yards, 8 TDs), Butch Jones’s team has arguably completed its plan to rebuild after Brian Kelly’s departure. The Bearcats will have to win out to guarantee an outright conference championship. Realistically though, three wins gets it done.

Louisville Cardinals 3-1 / 5-4

After dropping their Big East opener to Cincinnati, the Cardinals have rallied to three straight conference victories against Rutgers, Syracuse and West Virginia. The win in Morgantown was especially satisfying since the Mountaineers won the battle between the two teams for the Big 12 invitation to replace Missouri. QB Teddy Bridgewater (1275 yards, 8 TDs, 7 INT) has come alive of late and sparked the offense. Charlie Strong’s team welcomes Pittsburgh to Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium this week before finishing the season at Connecticut and South Florida. With the only conference loss to Cincinnati, they better run the table and hope the Bearcats go no better than .500 to close.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights 3-2 / 6-3

Greg Schiano’s team has played well this season, yet the likelihood of it claiming its first conference title appears remote. With Big East wins against Syracuse, Pittsburgh and South Florida, and losses against Louisville and West Virginia, Rutgers has only two conference games remaining. The Black Knights of Army square off in their annual matchup against Rutgers this weekend at Yankee Stadium. Then they host Cincinnati at High Point Solutions Stadium before closing their season in Connecticut. Word has come that Chas Dodd will be back at QB this week. He started the season but was replaced by true freshman Gary Nova in the conference opener. The Scarlet Knights must knock off Cincinnati and Connecticut at a minimum to claim that elusive conference title, and hope for lots of help.

West Virginia Mountaineers 2-2 / 6-3

The only Big East team to start the season in the AP Top 25, West Virginia was the team of promise. Dana Holgorsen’s club started strong and climbed to 5-1 overall by early October, with the only loss coming at home in Milan Puskar Stadium against LSU. With losses to Syracuse and Louisville in the last three weeks however, the Mountaineers have essentially fallen from contention. QB Geno Smith (3125 yards, 23 TDs, 5 INT) continues to impress in the new offense, but he and his teammates need to win the balance of the schedule (at Cincinnati, vs. Pittsburgh and at South Florida) to keep any hope alive of the conference championship.

Pittsburgh Panthers 2-2 / 4-5

Todd Graham’s team received a crushing blow two weeks ago when RB Ray Graham (958 yards, 9 TDs) injured his knee in the first offensive series against Connecticut. The injury cost the junior sensation his season. Tino Sunseri (1841 yards, 8 TDs, 8 INT) has been hot and cold all season, not giving the Panthers much on which to hang their hopes. The Panthers have defeated Connecticut and South Florida, but dropped games to Rutgers and Cincinnati. They travel to Louisville and West Virginia the next two weeks before finishing the season in Syracuse. Three wins is a tall order for this team without Ray Graham. Even two wins seems a challenge, to become bowl eligible.

Connecticut Huskies 2-2 / 4-5

The Huskies have struggled for consistency all season. They have not had a game this season where both offense and defense have played to full potential. First-year head coach Paul Pasqualoni used three different quarterbacks during the entire non-conference schedule before settling on Johnny McEntee (1515 yards, 9 TDs, 6 INT) to pilot the offense. It was redshirt freshman QB Scott McCummings who, rushing for two TDs, led Connecticut to a comeback victory against Syracuse last week at Rentschler Field. They have two road losses against Pittsburgh and West Virginia and two home wins against USF and Syracuse. With home games against Louisville and Rutgers upcoming, Connecticut has a chance to make the season finale in Cincinnati very interesting.

Syracuse Orange 1-3 / 5-4

After giving up a forth-quarter comeback to UConn last week, the Orange have in effect said goodbye to a Big East championship. Doug Marrone’s team had an inspiring win against West Virginia in the Carrier Dome three weeks ago for its only conference victory. Besides Connecticut, the Orange has also lost to Louisville and Rutgers. They take on USF and Cincinnati at home before finishing at Pittsburgh. Senior QB Ryan Nassib has the numbers (1960, 18 TDs, 6 INT) but they are not transferring into conference wins. Even with three successive wins, Syracuse will be on the outside looking in at 4-3.

South Florida Bulls 0-4 / 4-4

Skip Holtz’s team started its season 4-0 against nonconference opponents’, including a stunning season-opening win at Notre Dame. Since then however the Bulls have dropped four straight (at Pittsburgh, at Connecticut, vs. Cincinnati and at Rutgers). QB B.J. Daniels (2027 yards, 12 TDs, 5 INT) has been a bright spot on what has become a very dull season. The Bulls travel to Syracuse this week before closing the season with three games at Raymond James Stadium against Miami, Louisville and West Virginia. The way the Bulls have played over the last month, becoming bowl eligible seems a tall order though.


Predicted final conference records (edited 11/8)

Big East W-L
Cincinnati 6-1
West Virginia
Rutgers 4-3
Louisville 4-3
Pittsburgh 3-4
Connecticut 3-4
Syracuse 2-5
South Florida 1-6

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