Pitt and Syracuse are the only Big East Conference football teams with more than one league win.
Syracuse won on the road for the second consecutive week as the orange put together their best and most thorough performance of the season in a 31-7 victory against two time defending conference champion Cincinnati.
Delone Carter rushed for 109 yards and Ryan Nassib threw for two scores.
But the story of the game was the Syracuse defense. The Orange held a Cincinnati team that was averaging 30 points and 446 yards per game to seven points and 277 yards. The Syracuse defense forced three turnovers, all three directly led to scores points including a 60-yard interception return for a touchdown by linebacker Darrell Smith.
Syracuse has three conference wins for the first time since 2004. In fact, the Orange had won a total of four league games over the past five seasons.
The SU defense was able to hold Cincinnati’s Isaiah Pead to 23 yards on 11 carries, an average of 2.1 yards per carry. Pead came into the game averaging 7.7 yards per tote.
Overall, 6-2 Syracuse is off to its best start since 2001. All three of the Orange league victories have come on the road. The total of four road victories for the Orange is the most for the team since 1996.
"Keep working," Syracuse coach Doug Marrone said when asked what will keep things heading in a positive direction. "Keep working hard and never get too high and never get too low.
"I just believe in hard work. I don’t know any other way to do it. I don’t believe in luck. I think you create (luck) by working hard.
"We haven’t really done anything," Marrone continued. "I mean it when I say it. We are 6-2 and we are not where our goal is. Our goal is a winning season and when we get to that, maybe I’ll be able to talk about accomplishing that goal. But that is going to be a tough task for us."
Syracuse will host Louisville for a noon start Saturday. The Orange will have two of their last three conference games at home and three of their last four games overall at the Dome.
Louisville coach Charlie Strong is now dealing with an sluggish offense. The Cardinals offense has scored just one touchdown over the past 10 quarters. Louisville was held to its lowest points total and to its lowest total offense numbers of the season in a 20-3 loss to Pitt over the weekend.
"We could never sustain any type of rhythm offensively," Strong said of the Pitt loss. "Then we ended up losing our top player on offense."
Louisville running back Bilal Powell left the game in the third quarter with a knee injury after gaining 64 yards in the game.
"Bilal has swelling around his knee," Strong said. "He will be evaluated day-to-day, week-to-week."
Strong says senior Blayne Donnell and redshirt freshman Jeremy Wright would replace Powell Saturday against Syracuse if Powell can’t play in the game.
Powell is the first back in the Big East Conference to go over 1,000 yards for the season. He has 1,067 yards or 133 per game which is good for fifth best in the country.
Louisville’s passing game struggled against Pitt as well. Quarterback Adam Froman threw for 42 yards on the Cardinals first drive of the Pitt game. Froman had just 40 yards passing the rest of the way.
"Overall, it just wasn’t a very good team effort," Strong said. "Now we will go into a tough environment with a Syracuse team playing very well.
"They are the suprise team in the conference," Strong said of Syracuse. "They are playing with a lot of confidence. That is a solid football team that is playing great on defense."
Pitt remained the only team in the Big East without a conference loss following the win over Louisville.
Defensive end Jabaal Sheard led the way with two sacks and two forced fumbles.
Pitt is the one team that controls its own destiny at this point. The Panthers are 3-0 in league play and they could even survive a conference loss down the stretch. a loss to a conference team down the stretch and still win the league.
There are two teams left with one conference loss each, Syracuse (3-1) and Rutgers (1-1).
The Panthers have beaten both teams giving them a two-game lead with four games to play because of head-to-head tie breakers .
Pitt takes a three-game winning streak into the bye. The Panthers have outscored their past three opponents 106-38. Pitt will play again Thursday, November 11 at Connecticut.
"We’ve got to get better in all areas," Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said. "We’re not running the ball the way we would like to. We’re making progress in the passing game, but we have a lot of details we have to clean up.
"We are not blocking people like we should on kickoff returns," Wannstedt continued. "So we’ve got plenty to work on this week," Wannstedt said.
Pitt may be closer to getting 2009 Co-Big East Defensive Player of the year Greg Romeus back. Romeus had back surgery back in mid-September.
"The plan is to come out (to practice) tomorrow and start working with the team," Wannstedt said. "We’ll just take it day-by-day and see where it goes."
The conference schedule will begin this week on Wednesday as Rutgers plays at South Florida.
Rutgers has won four in a row in this series. Rutgers has outscored South Florida 80-16 in the last two games.
Last time out, Rutgers got blown out in the second half in a 41-21 loss at Pitt. The Scarlet Knights allowed 513 yards in that game.
The Rutgers defense is looking for a bounce back game as it is still ranked 15th nationally overall and 12 in scoring defense. Last year against South Florida, the Rutgers defense held USF to 159 yards of total offense while recording seven sacks. Bulls quarterback B. J. Daniels went 7-17 for 129 yards with two interceptions.
On the quarterback front, Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said Monday that he would stay with freshman Chas Dodd as his starter. Dodd has started the past three games in place of the injured Tom Savage.
"They are both ready to play," Schiano said. "I’ve said it before, we have two good quarterbacks."
On the injury front, Schiano says Mohamed Sanu’s ankle is better and he should be fine to play Wednesday. Also, running back Joe Martinek is expected to be back from an ankle injury.
South Florida, meanwhile, will be after the 100th victory in the program’s 14-year history.
South Florida snapped out of a two game offensive funk with a 38-30 win over Cincinnati prior to a 12 day break leading up this week’s Wednesday night game. The Bulls had five offensive touchdowns and no turnovers in the Cincinnati win after getting no offensive touchdowns with five turnovers in its previous two games.
"It was nice to have ten days off," South Florida coach Skip Holtz said. "We played three football games in 14 days and we were a little beat up.
"Rutgers will have a lot of confidence coming in here," Holtz continued. "Especially when you look at how they’ve beaten us in recent years. Our players understand the challenge we are up against."
It was a sweep for Connecticut of the league’s player of the week honors following UConn’s 16-13 overtime victory against the Mountaineers.
The Offensive Player of the Week is junior running back Jordan Todman. Todman rushed for a game-high 113 yards with a touchdown on a career high 33 carries. Todman also had four receptions for 28 yards. Todman ranks who ranks fourth nationally with an average of 136.3 rushing yards per game. He has gone over 100 yards six times this season.
The Big East Defensive Player of the Week is UConn linebacker Sio Moore. The sophomore also earned Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week honors after he had a career high 17 tackles against the Mountaineers including two sacks and three tackles for loss. Moore forced and recovered two fumbles in the game.
UConn kicker Dave Teggart was named Big East Special Teams Player of the Week after he nailed the game winner in overtime. Teggart hit from 39, 27 and 26 yards in the game. He hit game tying and game winning kicks.
"That was the only team we hadn’t beaten," Connecticut coach Randy Edsall said. "To beat them really means a lot to us, for a lot of different reasons."
WVU, Connecticut, Pitt and Cincinnati are all off this week.
Cincinnati played without starting quarterback Zach Collaros in the loss to Syracuse. Collaros warmed up for the game but was a game time scratch because of a knee injury.
"We’ll know more (about Collaros’ condition) next week," Cincinnati coach Butch Jones said. "That is where this off week comes in. He can get the extra rehab in. He will be very limited this week in practice. He’ll be lucky if he gets a couple of reps. Right now it’s about getting that knee back healthy."
Cincinnati is off until it visits Morgantown a week from Saturday.