As recently as Oct. 20, the Big East had three undefeated teams. Four Saturdays later, all three are sitting with at least one loss.
Despite Louisville’s loss to Syracuse in the Carrier Dome, the Big East race likely comes down to the same teams as it appeared back in early October -- the Cardinals, Rutgers and Cincinnati. The Scarlet Knights, whose lone loss is to Kent State, remains the only undefeated team in Big East play. Their tests are upcoming, starting with Cincinnati this week and Louisville in the finale.
Elsewhere the question is who else in the Big East will reach the postseason. Though Syracuse has as many league wins as Rutgers and Louisville (four), the Orange still need one more win to be bowl eligible.
Where Syracuse has breathing room, the other four teams in the league are one loss away from elimination from bowl consideration.
Offensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville -- The Syracuse loss can’t be put on the shoulders of Teddy Bridgewater, who was masterful in the Carrier Dome. Bridgewater completed 36 of 49 passes for a career-high 424 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. Bridgewater remains sixth in the nation in pass efficiency.
2. Ryan Nassib, Syracuse -- Nassib’s connection with Alec Lemon led Syracuse to its best win of the season and opened the door for a winning regular season. Nassib completed 15 of 23 passes for 246 yards with three touchdowns against Louisville, giving him 10 touchdowns an no interceptions in his last four games.
3. George Winn, Cincinnati -- The Bearcats made a quarterback change, but Winn continued to be the consistent cog in the Cincinnati offense. Winn, the Big East rushing leader, ran for 83 yards and two touchdowns in the win over Temple. He’s topped 75 rushing yards in every game this season and has accounted for six touchdowns (five rushing, one passing) the last two weeks.
Defensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Khaseem Greene, Rutgers -- Army’s run game gave Greene plenty of action as he finished with 22 tackles (but only six solo) against the Black Knights. Greene leads the Big East with 96 stops.
2. Sio Moore, Connecticut -- The senior has been consistent all season on a standout UConn defense, but Friday’s upset of Pittsburgh was a breakout game of sorts. Moore finished with six tackles, three tackles for a loss, two sacks and two pass breakups. Moore has 13 tackles for a loss and seven sacks this season.
3. Yawin Smallwood, Connecticut -- Smallwood remains one of the league leaders in tackles after recording nine stops against Pittsburgh.
Coach of the Year Standings
1. Charlie Strong, Louisville -- The Cardinals’ bid for an undefeated season ended Saturday with the loss to Syracuse. Louisville had been flirting with a loss for most of the season, but the team collapsed in the Carrier Dome. The Cardinals remain in contention for a Big East title when they resume play after an off week.
2. Kyle Flood, Rutgers -- Rutgers is the only undefeated team in Big East play, but the Scarlet Knights continue to be plagued by slow starts. With road games against Cincinnati and Pittsburgh coming up, then a finale against Louisville, Flood needs better production from his offense out of the gates.
3. Butch Jones, Cincinnati -- The Bearcats rebounded from back-to-back losses to Toledo and Louisville with consecutive wins over Syracuse and Temple. Jones made the tough decision to change quarterbacks in early November by benching Munchie Legaux for Brendon Kay.
Big East Post-Week 11 Power Rankings
1. Louisville (9-1, 4-1)
Last week’s rank: 1
Week 11 result: Lost to Syracuse 45-26
Louisville had been upset bait for most of the season, but the Cardinals kept winning thanks to the efforts of Teddy Bridgewater. Passing for 400-plus yards wasn’t enough at Syracuse, as Ryan Nassib and Alec Lemon torched the Louisville defense. The Cardinals allowed Syracuse to convert 14 of 19 third downs, including four touchdowns. Even before the loss to Syracuse, the Cardinals showed weakness in other areas. Louisville’s run defense has struggled in the last four weeks, allowing 231.5 yards per game and 5.1 yards per carry in that span. Making matters worse in the Cardinals’ run game, leading rusher Senorise Perry sustained a leg injury after only two carries against Syracuse.
This week: Off
2. Rutgers (8-1, 4-0)
Last week’s rank: 2
Week 11 result: Beat Army 28-7
Emerging from an off week didn’t help Rutgers remedy its trend of slow starts. The Scarlet Knights trailed Army 7-0 after the first quarter and entered halftime with a 7-7 tie. Rutgers didn’t put away the Black Knights until the final minutes on a Savon Huggins touchdown run and a Duron Harmon fumble recovery for a TD to make the victory look more comfortable than it actually was. Since defeating Arkansas on Sept. 22, Rutgers has been outscored 48-30 in the first half. Rutgers’ offense could be in further trouble if leading rusher Jawan Jamison (ankle) is unavailable to face Cincinnati. Special teams continued to be a strength for Rutgers, as the Scarlet Knights blocked two field goals.
This week: at Cincinnati
3. Cincinnati (7-2, 3-1)
Last week’s rank: 3
Week 11 result:Beat Temple 34-10
Cincinnati was able to get out of a game without biting its nails for the first time in a month with a comfortable win over Temple. The quarterback change from the inconsistent Munchie Legaux to the fifth-year senior Brendon Kay was just what the Bearcats needed. Kay was 13 of 21 for 244 yards with two touchdowns and no turnovers. He also rushed for 71 yards and caught one his own passes for a gain of five yards. Cincinnati remains in contention for an outright Big East title if the Bearcats can defeat Rutgers this week coupled with another Louisville loss.
This week: Rutgers
4. Syracuse (5-5, 4-2)
Last week’s rank: 5
Week 11 result: Beat Louisville 45-26
After a 2-4 start, Syracuse is starting to put together more consistent efforts. Nowhere was that more visible than in a comfortable 45-26 win over Louisville. Syracuse took a 31-13 halftime lead and didn’t let up. Beyond the Louisville game, Syracuse has won three of its last four. During that span, the Orange are plus-seven in turnover margin (compared to minus-10 prior). Quarterback Ryan Nassib has been the focus for Syracuse, but the Orange have thrived with a balanced offense. After rushing for a season-high 278 yards and three touchdowns against Louisville, Syracuse is averaging 228.5 rushing yards in each of the last four games.
This week: at Missouri
5. Pittsburgh (4-6, 1-4)
Last week’s rank: 4
Week 11 result: Lost 24-17 to Connecticut
The roller coaster ride that is Pittsburgh football took another dip with a 24-17 loss to Big East cellar-dweller Connecticut on Friday. The same team that defeated Virginia Tech and took Notre Dame to triple overtime also has losses to Youngstown State and UConn on the resume. After falling behind 24-0 at halftime, the Panthers responded with their worst rushing effort (48 yards) since the loss to Syracuse on Oct. 5. Pitt’s bowl chances, which looked promising a week ago, are now in question with Rutgers and a road trip to USF in the final two games. Pitt would have to win both to be bowl eligible.
This week: Off
6. USF (3-6, 1-4)
Last week’s rank: 6
Week 11 result: Off
USF used its off week to evaluate the quarterback situation after the season-ending injury to veteran B.J. Daniels. Redshirt freshman Matt Floyd came into the game against UConn after Daniels’ injury, but junior Bobby Eveld, Daniels’ backup the last two seasons, practiced with the possibility of burning a redshirt for the final three games. Eveld has twice played against Miami, the Bulls’ opponent this week, due to injuries to Daniels. The Bulls will attempt to build on their best defensive effort since the opener against Chattanooga. USF held UConn to 43 rushing yards and intercepted two passes, all without starting linebacker Sam Barrington, who was suspended for the UConn game.
This week: at Miami
7. Connecticut (4-6, 1-4)
Last week’s rank: 8
Week 11 result: Beat Pittsburgh 24-7
Connecticut ended a four-game losing streak, but the Huskies will need more of what went right in the first half against Pittsburgh in their final two games of the season. After an off week, UConn will visit Louisville then play host to Cincinnati. For now, the Huskies have plenty of reason to be optimistic. Lyle McCombs had his best game (120 yards, one touchdown) in more than a year, leading a 132-yard team rushing effort. Before the Pitt game, UConn had rushed for 178 yards total in four Big East games. After a brief hiccup against Temple and Syracuse, the Huskies’ defense returned to form the last two weeks, holding USF to 81 rushing yards and Pitt to 48.
This week: Off
8. Temple (3-6, 2-4)
Last week’s rank: 7
Week 11 result: Lost to Cincinnati 34-10
Temple has lost four in a row, all by convincing margins, but the forecast for the Owls’ final two games may be worse. Leading rusher Montel Harris, Temple’s only major weapon on offense, left the game in the second quarter with a knee injury. The Owls did not release an update on his status. Meanwhile, Temple could make a change at quarterback after benching starter Chris Coyer in the loss to Cincinnati. Juice Granger completed 7 of 15 passes for 86 yards and a touchdown in relief of Coyer.
This week: at Army
By David Fox
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