The Big East race may still be between three teams, but the race lost its luster less than a week before one of the marquee games of the season for the league.
Thank Cincinnati for that.
The Big East is down to two undefeated teams as Cincinnati lost 29-23 to Toledo on Saturday night. Cincinnati’s record in the Big East remains unblemished, but the hopes of a three-team round robin among ranked teams -- similar to Louisville, Rutgers and West Virginia in 2006 -- are gone.
Offensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville --In his first game in front of the home crowd since Sept. 15, Bridgewater turned in his signature performance of the year. The sophomore was 21 of 25 for 256 yards with two touchdowns, and as the run game stalled, Bridgewater led the team in rushing with 74 yards.
2. Jawan Jamison, Rutgers --Jamison had his best game of the season against Temple, spearheading the second-half comeback. Jamison rushed for 114 yards and caught five passes for 81 yards, including the go-ahead touchdown on a 32-yard screen pass.
3. Ryan Nassib, Syracuse -- After throwing five interceptions in three games, Nassib returned to form against a stout Connecticut defense by completing 14 of 29 passes for 251 yards and two touchdowns against the Huskies.
Defensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Khaseem Greene, Rutgers -- Greene had a hand in a turnover for the third consecutive game, returning a fumble 20 yards for a touchdown against Temple.
2. Jason Hendricks, Pittsburgh -- With 11 stops against Buffalo, the Pittsburgh safety had double-digit tackles for the third consecutive game to go with his fourth interception of the season.
3. Lorenzo Mauldin, Louisville -- Mauldin has led the resurgent Cardinals pass rush the last two weeks with 1.5 sacks against Pittsburgh and two against USF (worth noting the Bulls lost guard Mark Popek in the second quarter). The moment of truth will come in containing Munchie Legaux on Friday.
Coach of the Year Standings
1. Kyle Flood, Rutgers --Trailing at halftime? No problem for Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights are outscoring Big East opponents 84-15 in the second half this season. Rutgers may rank seventh in the Big East in passing and rushing, but the Scarlet Knights make the most of their opportunities. Thank a Big East-best plus-14 in turnover margin.
2. Charlie Strong, Louisville -- The Cardinals have been far from perfect this season, letting every team since the third week of the season hang around. Yet Louisville keeps gutting out wins, the latest on its final possession of the game.
3. Steve Addazio, Temple -- The loss to Rutgers notwithstanding, Temple exceeded all expectations in its first season back in the Big East.
Big East Post-Week 8 Power Rankings
1. Louisville (6-0, 2-0)
Last week’s rank: 1
Week 8 result: Beat USF 27-25
Louisville is a statistical anomaly in the Big East. Although the Cardinals are one of two undefeated teams left in the conference, they rank in the top two in the Big East in only two major categories - scoring offense and pass efficiency. Louisville ranks in the bottom half of the Big East in run defense, pass efficiency defense and sacks, but that’s showing signs of turning around. The Cardinals have nine sacks in the last two games against Pittsburgh and USF after recording only five in the first five games of the season.
This week: Cincinnati (Friday)
2. Rutgers (6-0, 4-0)
Last week’s rank: 2
Week 8 result: Beat Temple 35-10
For the third week in a row, Rutgers’ undefeated start appeared to be in jeopardy at halftime. Up 10-0, Temple had more control than Syracuse and Connecticut -- or so the Owls thought. Rutgers scored touchdowns on its first four offensive possessions of the second half and then tacked on a fumble recovery for a TD for good measure. After two turnovers in the first half, Gary Nova rebounded with four touchdown passes in the second.
This week: Kent State
3. Cincinnati (5-1, 1-0)
Last week’s rank: 3
Week 8 result: Lost to Toledo 29-23
Cincinnati missed injured defensive end Walter Stewart against Toledo, but the Bearcats inconsistency finally caught up with them in a road loss to the Rockets. Cincinnati briefly took a lead in the third quarter, but Toledo returned then ensuing kickoff back for a touchdown. And late in the fourth quarter, the defense couldn’t get a stop on a 15-play, 6-minute, 53-second drive for Toledo. On offense, quarterback Munchie Legaux was 15 of 36 for 227 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.
This week: at Louisville (Friday)
4. Syracuse (3-4, 2-1)
Last week’s rank: 5
Week 8 result: Beat Connecticut 40-10
For the first time this season, Syracuse stopped playing to the level of its opponent and played a complete game on all sides of the ball. The Orange scored on five consecutive possessions in the second and third quarter, excluding one-play kneel-down to end the first half. The defense held Connecticut to minus-6 yards thanks to eight tackles for a loss. And Ross Krautman was 4 of 4 on field goals. Quietly, Syracuse has held opponents to a Big East-best 1.2 yards per carry in conference games. Next up, Syracuse will seek its first back-to-back wins in more than a year.
This week: at USF
5. Pittsburgh (3-4, 0-3)
Last week’s rank: 6
Week 8 result: Beat Buffalo 20-6
Pitt is undefeated against the MAC. That should be expected, but it is more than three Big East teams can say. The win wasn’t pretty as Pitt was outgained 334-254 in sloppy weather. After the way this season has gone, Pitt will take the win, which will be critical if the Panthers are going to reach the postseason.
This week: Temple
6. Temple (3-3, 2-1)
Last week’s rank: 4
Week 8 result: Lost to 35-10 to Rutgers
Temple had few answers in the second half against Rutgers, giving up five unanswered touchdowns, but the Owls were the first team this season to rush for at least 100 yards against the Scarlet Knights. Quarterback Chris Coyer struggled mightily, completing only 7 of 14 passes for 65 yards with three turnovers, including a fumble returned for a touchdown. If Temple is going to reach a bowl game, the Owls will have to win a road game with three of hte last five games coming away from Philadelphia.
This week: at Pittsburgh
7. USF (2-5, 0-3)
Last week’s rank: 8
Week 8 result: Lost to Louisville 27-25
Another week meant another heartbreaking loss for USF, this one with historical significance. The Bulls’ fifth consecutive loss sealed the longest losing streak in program history. The defeat, though, came in the same manner as so many others over the last two seasons -- by losing a fourth quarter lead. Despite trailing 14-3 at halftime, USF took a 25-21 lead in the final 3:09 before Teddy Bridgewater led the game-winning drive. The difference this week was USF advancing all the way to the 2-yard line before the Bulls were stuffed on three consecutive plays near the end of the third quarter.
This week: Syracuse
8. Connecticut (2-5, 0-3)
Last week’s rank: 7
Week 8 result: Lost to Syracuse 40-10
The Huskies finally got a standout game out of the passing attack with Chandler Whitmer going 23 of 41 for 296 yards with a touchdown. Nearly everything else flopped. Syracuse, which hadn’t rushed for more than 133 yards against an FBS opponent, ran for 251 yards against Connecticut. Suddenly, the UConn defense has allowed 453 rushing yards the last two weeks after holding its first four opponents to fewer than 100 yards on the ground. On offense, the story is getting worse as UConn’s best and most versatile lineman, Adam Masters, was lost for the season with an ankle injury. UConn’s minus-6 rushing yards against Syracuse was its worst since moving up to the FBS.
This week: Off
By David Fox
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