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Behind quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville is on the rise in the Big East.
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Post-Week 10 Big East Power Rankings
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1. Cincinnati (7-1) – The Bearcats trailed at halftime, but rebounded in the second half to claim a 26-23 victory over Pittsburgh. Four out of the last five matchups in the Cincinnati-Pittsburgh series have been decided by a touchdown or less, so it was no surprise Saturday night's matchup was close. With the win over the Panthers, Cincinnati continued to tighten its grip on the conference 's No. 1 spot. The Bearcats are the only team without a loss in Big East play, but they are far from being in a position to clinch the conference title. Cincinnati still has games remaining against West Virginia, Rutgers, Syracuse and Connecticut, so the Big East race is far from over.
2. Louisville (5-4) – The rest of the Big East is officially on notice. Thanks to three wins in a row, the Cardinals have jumped into the conference title race. Louisville pulled off a surprising 38-35 victory at West Virginia on Saturday, earning its first win in Morgantown since 1990. The winning streak has the Cardinals within striking distance for the top spot in the Big East. Coming into 2011, the depth chart was littered with youth. And most expected Louisville to be a work in progress for coach Charlie Strong. However, the young players have stepped up over the last few weeks, including quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. The freshman was nearly flawless in the win over the Mountaineers, completing 21 of 27 throws for 247 yards and one touchdown. The Cardinals host Pittsburgh next Saturday.
3. Rutgers (6-3) – Somehow, the Scarlet Knights snapped a two-game losing streak with a 20-17 win in overtime against South Florida. While it’s no surprise Rutgers won, it managed only 226 yards of offense, had two turnovers and got only 16 rushing yards from starting running back Jawan Jamison. Needless to say, you don’t have to have style points to win. The Scarlet Knights’ offense did suffer a blow, as freshman running back Savon Huggins was carted off the field with a knee injury. Rutgers plays Army next Saturday.
4. West Virginia (6-3) – The Mountaineers’ conference title hopes took a significant hit with a surprising 38-35 loss to Louisville on Saturday. West Virginia’s offense collected 534 total yards, but had two costly turnovers. The Mountaineers were also hurt by a blocked field goal that was returned for a score in the fourth quarter. With three games to go, West Virginia is going to need some help in order to claim the Big East title. However, a win over Cincinnati next Saturday would put the Mountaineers back on the radar.
5. Pittsburgh (4-5) – Life without Ray Graham is going to be difficult for the Panthers. Pittsburgh dropped under .500 with a 26-23 loss to Cincinnati on Saturday. Without Graham, quarterback Tino Sunseri has to carry the offense. The junior threw for 218 yards and led the team with 70 on the ground, but it wasn’t enough. The Panthers have a difficult schedule remaining – at Louisville, at West Virginia and home for Syracuse in the season finale. Pittsburgh needs two wins to make a bowl, but considering the loss of Graham and upcoming schedule, it’s no sure thing.
6. South Florida (4-4) – A promising 4-0 start has been completely undone by a four-game losing streak. The Bulls lost 20-17 in overtime on Saturday to Rutgers. Kicker Maikon Bonani had a chance to win the game on the final play of regulation, but pushed a 27-yard field goal wide. South Florida is the only team in the Big East that does not have a win in conference play. Despite the recent struggles, the Bulls still have four games to turn things around. And two victories are all that is needed to qualify for a bowl. South Florida travels to Syracuse for a Friday night matchup next week.
7. Connecticut (4-5) – Don’t write off the Huskies just yet. Connecticut earned its second Big East win of 2011, beating Syracuse 28-21 on Saturday. Quarterback play has been an issue all year, and Johnny McEntee was shaky in the victory, but running back Lyle McCombs carried the offense. The redshirt freshman rushed for 152 yards and one touchdown on 24 attempts. The Huskies still have a long climb to think about winning the conference, but reaching a bowl is a realistic possibility. Connecticut has a bye next Saturday, before hosting Louisville on Nov. 19.
8. Syracuse (5-4) – Figuring out which Orange team is going to show up each week has been difficult this year. Syracuse beat West Virginia 49-23 on Oct. 21, but has since posted back-to-back losses to Louisville and Connecticut. The Orange outgained the Huskies 365 to 308, but had three turnovers and never got running back Antwon Bailey on track. Syracuse needs one more win to get bowl eligible and it could get there with South Florida visiting the Carrier Dome next Friday. The Bulls are reeling with a four-game losing streak and lost to Syracuse 13-9 in Tampa last season.