By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Post-Week 13 Big East Power Rankings
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1. West Virginia (8-3) – Thanks to conference realignment, Friday night’s Backyard Brawl might be the last one for a couple of years. What a shame if that’s the case. The Mountaineers rallied from a 14-0 hole to knock off Pittsburgh 21-20, moving their record to 8-3 this season. The offensive line has been a sore spot all year for West Virginia and was an issue against the Panthers, as quarterback Geno Smith was sacked four times and threw for only 244 yards. However, the rushing attack came alive in the second half, and the defense sacked Pittsburgh quarterback Tino Sunseri 10 times. The Mountaineers close out their regular season with a date at South Florida on Thursday night. If West Virginia wins on Thursday, along with a Cincinnati victory against Connecticut, the Mountaineers will claim the Big East's BCS spot.
2. Cincinnati (8-3) – The Bearcats kept alive their Big East title hopes, defeating Syracuse 30-13 for their eighth win of the season. After quarterback Munchie Legaux struggled against Rutgers, coach Butch Jones opened up the quarterback competition and gave Jordan Luallen some playing time against the Orange. Luallen gave the offense a spark, rushing for 77 yards on eight carries and completing two of three passes. Cincinnati closes out its regular season with a home date against Connecticut. If the Bearcats win and West Virginia loses to South Florida, they will represent the Big East in the BCS.
3. Louisville (7-5) – After a 2-4 start, not many expected the Cardinals to be in position to play in a BCS game. How things have changed since mid-October. Louisville knocked off South Florida 34-24 on Friday, giving it five wins in its last six games. Freshman quarterback Teddy Bridgewater had an outstanding performance against the Bulls, completing 19 of 28 passes for 241 yards and three touchdowns. The Cardinals’ defense also delivered, limiting South Florida to 64 rushing yards and forcing three turnovers. Louisville has finished its regular season, but will have to wait until next Saturday to see if it will represent the Big East in the BCS.
4. Rutgers (8-4) – Winning the turnover battle has been a critical staple for the Scarlet Knights’ success this year. However, that wasn’t the case on Saturday against Connecticut. Rutgers committed seven turnovers against the Huskies and suffered his worst defeat of the year (40-22). The loss to Connecticut ended any hopes the Scarlet Knights had of representing the Big East in the BCS. Rutgers has finished its regular season and will now wait for its postseason destination, likely the Pinstripe Bowl in New York City on Dec. 30.
5. Pittsburgh (5-6) – The Panthers jumped out to a 14-0 lead, but West Virginia staged a furious second-half rally to win the Backyard Brawl 21-20. Pittsburgh’s offense sputtered in the final two quarters, largely due to an offensive line that was manhandled by a relentless pass rush by the Mountaineers. Quarterback Tino Sunseri was sacked 10 times, with four coming on the final drive. With the loss to West Virginia, the Panthers were eliminated from the Big East title race. And with one game remaining, Pittsburgh has to focus on getting bowl eligible. Syracuse visits Heinz Field next Saturday in the regular season finale.
6. South Florida (5-6) – With one game left, the Bulls have their backs against the wall. After a 4-0 start, South Florida is in danger of missing out on the postseason. The Bulls had a chance to get bowl eligible on Saturday, but watched an early lead evaporate for a 34-24 loss to Louisville. Quarterback B.J. Daniels was sidelined with a shoulder injury, but replacement Bobby Eveld was solid in relief, completing 20 of 35 passes for 210 yards and one touchdown. However, the Bulls were unable to get their rushing attack going, and the offense committed three turnovers. South Florida will have one more shot to get bowl eligible, hosting West Virginia on Thursday night.
7. Connecticut (5-6) – An interesting trend has developed for the Huskies over the last five weeks. Connecticut has alternated wins and losses during that span, capped by a surprising 40-22 victory over Rutgers on Saturday. The Huskies managed only 290 yards of offense, but the defense forced seven turnovers and sacked Scarlet Knight quarterbacks six times. Connecticut’s regular season will conclude next Saturday at Cincinnati. The Huskies need a win to get bowl eligible, while the Bearcats will be playing for a shot at the Big East title.
8. Syracuse (5-6) – After last season’s 8-5, all signs pointed to the Orange going in the right direction. However, thanks to a 30-13 loss to Cincinnati on Saturday, Syracuse still needs one win to get bowl eligible. Since pulling a 49-23 upset over West Virginia, the Orange has lost four straight. The culprit for the struggles this season rests with both sides of the ball. The offense ranks near the bottom of the Big East in rushing, while the defense is giving up almost 30 points a game. If Syracuse wants to salvage this season, getting a victory against Pittsburgh on Saturday would keep alive the possibility of back-to-back winning seasons.