With one week remaining in the 2012 regular season, there is still plenty at stake in the BIG EAST.
Rutgers has clinched a share of the BIG EAST title for the first time in program history, and the Scarlet Knights can win the outright title — and the conference’s Bowl Championship Series berth — with a win against Louisville this Thursday.
A Louisville win against Rutgers, however, means that championship rings can also be ordered for Louisville and Syracuse Thursday night. Cincinnati would then have the chance to play its way into a share of the championship Saturday against Connecticut.
A Louisville win would all but officially give the conference’s BCS bid to the Cardinals. BIG EAST tiebreaker policy dictates that a three-way tie between Louisville, Rutgers and Syracuse would go to the highest ranked of the three in the final BCS standings. A possible four-way tie among those three teams and Cincinnati would go to the higher ranked of Louisville and Rutgers (as the two teams that would be 2-1 against the other tied teams).
Outside of the championship race, Connecticut and Pittsburgh put themselves on the cusp of bowl eligibility entering the final week of the season. The Huskies and Panthers need to win in their respective season finales to reach postseason play.
Connecticut played itself in position to keep playing with a 23-20 win at Louisville in triple-overtime. The physcial battle saw both starting quarterbacks sidelined, though Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater returned to finish with 331 passing yards and two touchdowns. It wasn’t enough to solve Connecticut’s defense, which limited the Cardinals to 27 rushing yards and got a pivotal interception from cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson in the third overtime period.
Connecticut’s win allowed Rutgers to help erase the taste of a tough 27-6 setback to Pittsburgh as it assured the Scarlet Knights of a share of the BIG EAST title. Pittsburgh was solid from start to finish against Rutgers as the Panthers finished with a 365-207 advantage in total yards and a 22-13 margin in first downs. Panther running back Ray Graham rushed for 113 yards and a touchdown and quarterback Tino Sunseri continued his steady play with 227 passing yards and two touchdown throws.
Syracuse put itself in position to claim a piece of the BIG EAST championship with a 38-20 win at Temple Friday. The Orange erased a 10-0 first-quarter deficit and trailed 20-17 in the third quarter before closing with 21 unanswered points. Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib threw for 215 yards and a touchdown and cornerback Keon Lyn delivered two timely fourth-quarter interceptions. Temple, which saw its season end at 4-7, was led by running back Montel Harris, who rushed for 106 yards on 21 carries.
Cincinnati, which is looking for a share of its fourth BIG EAST title in five years, rode a 119-yard, two-touchdown effort from running back George Winn to a 27-10 win against USF Friday at Nippert Stadium. Tight end Travis Kelce had seven catches for 58 yards and a TD for the Bearcats, who improved to 8-3 with the victory. USF, which was forced to start its third different player at quarterback in as many games, saw freshman Matt Floyd complete 21 of 39 passes for 176 yards as the Bulls fell to 3-8.