By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Post-Week 9 Big East Power Rankings
Check out all of our college football rankings.
1. Cincinnati (6-1) – The Bearcats remain atop the Big East power rankings for the second week in a row. Cincinnati is the only team without a loss in conference play, but return after its bye week for a tough trip to Pittsburgh. The Bearcats are catching the Panthers at a good time, as starting running back Ray Graham was lost for the year with a knee injury in last week's game against Connecticut. Starting with Saturday’s game, the Bearcats are about to embark on a difficult four-game stretch, which also includes matchups against West Virginia, Rutgers and Syracuse. Can Cincinnati maintain its lead and win the Big East title? This conference has been full of ups and downs this year, so the Bearcats can't feel too comfortable with five games remaining.
2. West Virginia (6-2) – The conditions weren’t exactly ideal for the Mountaineers’ pass-first offense, but they found a way to pull out the victory, extending their winning streak over Rutgers to 17 in a row. Quarterback Geno Smith passed for only 219 yards and two touchdowns, but West Virginia’s rushing attack helped pickup the slack on offense, led by 110 yards from Shawne Alston. The Mountaineers also took advantage of three turnovers by the Scarlet Knights, while the defense pitched a shutout in the second half. West Virginia controls its destiny in the Big East race and faces an improving Louisville team this Saturday.
3. Rutgers (5-3) – After a 5-1 start, the Scarlet Knights have taken a step back in the Big East race, losing their last two games. Rutgers led 31-21 at the half over West Virginia, but was unable to hold onto the lead and lost 41-31. The loss continues a recent string of misery in this series for the Scarlet Knights, as they have lost 17 in a row to the Mountaineers. One positive in the loss was the rushing attack, which got 96 yards and two touchdowns from Jawan Jamison. Rutgers hosts South Florida this Saturday, which is a must win if it wants to stay alive in the Big East race.
4. Pittsburgh (4-4) – A 35-20 win over Connecticut on Wednesday night moved the Panthers back to .500 this year. However, the win had a heavy price. Running back Ray Graham suffered a knee injury and is lost for the year. With Graham out, Pittsburgh will have to lean more on running back Zach Brown and quarterback Tino Sunseri. The Panthers need two wins to get bowl eligible, and has a difficult game against current Big East leader Cincinnati this Saturday. Without Graham, contending for the Big East title is very unlikely, but there's a good chance this team can still get to a bowl.
5. South Florida (4-3) – The Bulls had a bye in Week 9 and are back in action on Saturday at Rutgers. The off week came at a good time for South Florida, as it is riding a three-game losing streak and desperately needs to get things going back in the right direction. The Bulls have a tough two-game road stretch coming up, as they play at Rutgers this Saturday, followed by a date at Syracuse on November 11. South Florida still needs two wins to get bowl eligible, but there’s no guaranteed victory on the schedule the rest of the way.
6. Louisville (4-4) – The Cardinals have been making a steady climb up the power rankings the last two weeks. Louisville has won two games in a row, including Saturday’s 27-10 effort over Syracuse. A big reason for the improvement has been quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. The true freshman turned in an efficient performance against Syracuse, throwing for 198 yards and two touchdowns. Center Mario Benavides’ return to the lineup has helped the rushing attack the last few games, and that continued against the Orange with Victor Anderson rushing for 93 yards and one score. The Cardinals travel to West Virginia this Saturday.
7. Syracuse (5-3) – One week after a big win against West Virginia, the Orange took a step back with a 27-10 loss at Louisville. Syracuse’s offense struggled to get on track, as quarterback Ryan Nassib threw for only 162 yards on 36 attempts, and running back Antwon Bailey managed only 70 yards. With the Orange trailing all game, Bailey was really never a factor, which snapped his streak of four consecutive 100-yard games. Syracuse still has Big East title hopes, but is in a big hole thanks to the loss to Louisville. The Orange play at Connecticut next Saturday.
8. Connecticut (3-5) – The Huskies were unable to build upon the momentum from their win over South Florida, losing 35-20 on Wednesday night to Pittsburgh. Connecticut’s defense had no answer for the Panthers offense, as quarterback Tino Sunseri threw for 419 yards and added 40 more on the ground. Quarterback play has been an issue for the Huskies all year, and it wasn’t much better on Wednesday night. Johnny McEntee threw for 193 yards and two touchdowns, but completed only 51.5 percent of his throws. Connecticut looks to get back into the win column against Syracuse this Saturday. The game against the Orange will be a homecoming for Huskies' coach Paul Pasqualoni, who posted a 107-59-1 record in 14 years at Syracuse.