With three weeks left in the regular season, four teams are still alive in the chase for the BIG EAST title and the league’s automatic bid to the Bowl Championship Series.
Some paths to the title are more direct than others, but the math says that Cincinnati, Louisville, Rutgers and Syracuse can still hold on to hopes of playing in a BCS bowl game this year.
Syracuse kept itself in contention as the Orange stunned previously unbeaten Louisville with a 45-26 win against the Cardinals at the Carrier Dome. It was the second time in as many years that Syracuse knocked off the No. 11 team in the Associated Press poll (the Orange beat West Virginia at the Carrier Dome last season).
Syracuse gained 524 yards of offense against Louisville and found a successful connection with QB Ryan Nassib and WR Alec Lemon. Nassib threw for 246 yards and three touchdowns, setting the BIG EAST’s career completions record (738) in the process, while Lemon had nine receptions for 176 yards and two second-quarter touchdowns to help the Orange pull away early.
RB Jerome Smith turned in his fifth 100-yard effort of the season as he rushed for 144 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. Syracuse improved to 5-5 overall and 4-2 in BIG EAST play with the win. The Orange need one more win to secure bowl eligibility, but can harbor hopes of a BCS bid if it finishes in a two-way tie with Louisville atop the final BIG EAST standings.
Louisville, which was looking to get to 10-0 for the first time in program history, fell to 9-1 with the loss despite a 424-yard, three-touchdown showing from QB Teddy Bridgewater. Louisville can still claim the BIG EAST’s BCS bid with wins in its final two games (against Connecticut and Rutgers).
Cincinnati has three BIG EAST games remaining, but the Bearcats can still determine their own championship hopes after a 31-10 win against Temple in Philadelphia. QB Brendon Kay made his first career start and threw for 244 yards and two touchdowns without an interception, lifting the Bearcats to 7-1 overall and 3-1 in the BIG EAST.
RB George Winn rushed for two touchdowns for Cincinnati, which would be assured of at least a tie for the BIG EAST title with wins in its final three games. Temple saw backup QB Clinton Granger provide a second-half spark, but the Owls dropped their fourth straight.
Connecticut (4-6, 1-4 BIG EAST) picked up its first BIG EAST win of the season as the Huskies made a 24-0 halftime score hold up in a 24-17 victory against Pittsburgh at Rentschler Field. WR Nick Williams finished with 160 all-purpose yards, including a 93-yard punt return for a touchdown to help the Huskies build a big lead. Pittsburgh (4-6, 1-4 BIG EAST) had all of the scoring in the second half as QB Tino Sunseri threw for 302 yards and two touchdowns.
Rutgers was the lone BIG EAST team to play a nonconference game and the Scarlet Knights improved to 8-1 with a 28-7 victory against Army at High Point Solutions Stadium. WR Brandon Coleman caught two touchdowns passes and LB Khaseem Greene turned in 22 tackles — good for fifth on the all-time BIG EAST single-game chart — to pace the Scarlet Knights.
Rutgers, the lone unbeaten team in BIG EAST play, would win at least a share of its first BIG EAST title if the Scarlet Knights beat Louisville Nov. 29.