|As Louisville prepares for Florida, Charlie Strong has been linked to two prominent openings in the SEC. (US Presswire)|
Big East: Ranking the Bowl Games
1. Allstate Sugar Bowl in New Orleans: Louisville vs. No. 3 Florida, Jan. 2, 8:30 p.m. ET (ESPN) -- Charlie Strong could face his former team for the first time since he became the Cardinals' head coach in 2010 if he remains in his current position over the next 31 days. Strong has been linked to openings at Auburn and Tennessee. Strong spent seven seasons as the defensive coordinator at Florida (2003-2009) and served as the Gators interim coach in the 2004 Peach Bowl before Urban Meyer took over in 2005. Led by QB Teddy Bridgewater, a favorite for Big East Offensive Player of the Year, the Cardinals are tied for first in the Big East in scoring offense (31.0 ppg). The Cardinals will face a stingy Florida defense that ranks third in FBS in scoring defense (12.9 ppg).
2. Pinstripe Bowl in New York City: Syracuse vs. West Virginia, Dec. 29, 3:15 p.m. ET (ESPN) -- Expect offensive fireworks at Yankee Stadium when the two former Big East rivals meet. Sportsbook.ag has set the over/under for the game at 73.5 -- the highest of any bowl game besides the Fiesta Bowl (77). Syracuse has averaged 38.0 ppg over its last three games, which pales in comparison to West Virginia's offensive output in September when the Mountaineers averaged 53 points per contest. West Virginia hopes to avenge last season's 40-23 loss to Syracuse when the Orange confounded Geno Smith with their blitz packages and forced two interceptions. Syracuse must contain Mountaineers WR Tavon Austin, who ranks in the top seven in FBS in receptions (9.17) and receiving yards (104.92) per game.
3. Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando, Fla.: Rutgers vs. Virginia Tech, Dec. 28, 5:30 p.m. ET (ESPN) -- The Scarlet Knights will look to snap an 11-game losing streak against Virginia Tech when the teams meet for the 15th time in series history. Rutgers owns a five-game bowl winning streak, which is tied for most in the nation with Mississippi State. The Scarlet Knights will face one of the nation's top dual-threats at quarterback in Virginia Tech junior Logan Thomas. In 2012, Thomas has 17 touchdowns through the air and 528 yards on the ground this season. Rutgers can hand the Hokies their third defeat of the year against a Big East opponent.
4. BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham, Ala.: Pittsburgh vs. Mississippi, Jan. 5, 1 p.m. ET (ESPN) -- Pitt's talented trio of QB Tino Sunseri, RB Ray Graham and WR Mike Shanahan will be making their final appearance in a Panthers' uniform. Graham has rushed for 94 yards or more in four of his last five games. In the pass game, Sunseri has a sterling 19:2 TD/INT ratio. Pitt will face a Rebels' defense that ranks 84th against the pass (251.67 ypg) and 49th overall (385.00 ypg).
5. Belk Bowl in Charlotte, N.C.: Cincinnati vs. Duke, Dec. 27, 6:30 p.m. ET (ESPN) -- The Bearcats will be making their sixth appearance in a bowl game in the last seven seasons. Duke, meanwhile, hasn't appeared in a bowl game since 1994. The two teams will be meeting for the first time ever in football. Cincinnati ranks 19th in FBS in pass efficiency defense (111.14). The Bearcats will face experienced Duke QB Sean Renfree. The Blue Devils are averaging more than 275 yards per game through the air.
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