Two Team Race
Cincinnati’s victory over the Mountaineers Friday night ensures that the Big East championship will be decided Dec. 5 when Pitt hosts the Bearcats. Cincinnati has just the one league game left. Pitt will play at West Virginia Nov. 27 prior to that Saturday showdown with Cincinnati. Pitt can lose to West Virginia and still have a shot at winning the championship and a BCS bowl berth by beating Cincinnati. All other conference teams have at least two losses.
Cincinnati is off this week as it prepares for the final two games, at home to Illinois on Nov. 27 and then at Pitt.
Cincinnati is gunning for it’s second consecutive Big East Championship. The Bearcats are 10-0 and ranked 5th after playing in the Orange Bowl last year. Although Cincinnati coach Brian kelly has praise for what his team has accomplished on the field, he says the Cincinnati program has yet "to arrive."
"Our team has arrived, but our football program still has a lot to look at," Kelly said. "Institutionally and with our infrastructure we are still in the process. We still have to be competitive salary wise with our coaches. All of those things, we are still in the process
"We just didn’t in one day or in two years go from the bottom of the league in salaries and infrastructure to the top," Kelly added. "That is a process that we have to continue to work at. We have a lot of work left there."
Pitt has the week off leading into the WVU game coming up a week from Friday.
Pitt’s offensive line continues to play outstanding football. Freshman Dion Lewis continues to lead the league in rushing by a wide margin as he averages 129 yards per game. Also Pitt and Cincinnati are tied for the fewest sacks allowed in the conference as each team has given up just nine sacks in ten games.
Pitt had the Offensive Player of the Week in receiver Jonathan Baldwin who averaged 28.4 yards per reception as he finished with 142 yards through the air. Baldwin had a brilliant diving touchdown grab to put Pitt in the lead for good in that game.
The Pitt defense harrassed Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen the entire game Saturday night as the Panthers beat the Irish 27-22. Pitt sacked Clausen twice, forced two turnovers and blocked and extra point.
Rutgers Jumps into the A-P Top 25.
Rutgers will take a three game winning streak into Saturday’s game on the road at Syracuse. With Thursday’s blowout 31-0 win over South Florida, the Scarlett Knights find themselves qualified for a bowl for a fifth straight season.
It is also the fifth time Rutgers has made the AP Poll during a season, doing so in 1961, 1976, 2006 and 2007. The last national ranking for the Knights came on Oct. 21 of 2007.
Rutgers cornerback Devin McCourty earned Big East Special Teams Player of the Week honors as he forced a fumble on punt coverage and then blocked a kick during that win over South Florida. McCourty also had 36 yards on kickoff returns and he had a team high nine tackles on defense.
Rutgers continues to lead the nation in turnover margin . The Scarlett Knights are second in the nation having forced 29 turnovers. Rutgers has given the ball up just eight times all season.
"We are taking care of the football on offense," Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said. "Tom (Savage) has thrown just two interceptions which for any quarterback is great but for a freshman that is extraordinary. Defensively, the kids are just doing a tremendous job of taking it away. It’s the same drills. It’s the same emphasis. Sometimes you just get on a roll with those types of things.
"I think it is also when you have some experience on defense," Schiano said. "They just have a feel for what they are doing. I think it affords you a situation when you know you can take a chance here or there or know when you can get a strip of a ball carrier when maybe a young guy doesn’t. That is one of the things that having some seniors on your defense gives you a chance."
Rutgers has a pretty good chance to be a nine win football team when they host the Mountaineers in the regular season finale Dec. 12. The Scarlett Knights are on the road to play a banged up Syracuse team this week. Then Rutgers will play at Louisville Nov. 27.
Big East Will Try to go 2-0 vs. Notre Dame in 2009.
Pitt beat the Irish this week, now Connecticut has a chance to go to South Bend to face the Irish for the first time in school history.
It is a UConn team that is 4-5 on the year, but the Huskies losses have come by a total of 15 points. The largest margin of defeat for the Huskies came in back to back 28-24 losses to WVU and Rutgers.
"The biggest thing it comes down to is execution," Connecticut coach Randy Edsall said. "When you are in games like we’ve been it usually comes down to the execution. We have given up big plays at the end of games, but if our execution is better and the technique is better, you don’t give up those big plays."
"You always focus on the fundamentals and you always focus on technique," Edsall said of the bye week. "You can always get better collectively as an offense, defense and special teams."
Notre Dame has lost a string of close games as well. The Irish lost at Pitt 27-22 on Saturday. Notre Dame’s four losses have been by a total of 15 points.
Connecticut has lost three in a row and four of it’s last five. UConn suffered back to back last second losses at the hands of WVU and Rutgers. Last week, the Huskies fought back to pull within two of 5th ranked and unbeaten Cincinnati only to lose 47-45. The Huskies had last week off as they prepare to head to South Bend this week. Following the Notre Dame trip, UConn will close the season with home games against Syracuse and South Florida in an effort to become bowl elidible..
Louisville Beats Syracuse, Heads for South Florida.
The Cardinals managed a 10-9 victory at home over Syracuse, now it is a trip to South Florida this Saturday.
"A win is a win," Louisville coach Steve Kragthorpe said. "Although it was ugly, our guys continue to fight, battle and persevere. They found a way to get the win."
Louisville won the game despite gaining just 151 yards in total offense. That is the fewest total for a Louisville team since a loss to Cincinnati back in 2002.
Louisville has the Big East Defensive Player of the Week in linebacker Chris Campa. Campa had 15 tackles including two sacks in the Syracuse win. He also forced a fumble.