|Rutgers suffered its first Big East loss of the season, falling 27-6 to Pittsburgh. (US Presswire)|
Next Thursday night's primetime showdown between Rutgers and Louisville will still determine the league's representative for the Bowl Championship Series. But the "Big East title game" of sorts lost a lot of luster when both the Scarlet Knights and Cardinals lost their next-to-last conference game Saturday.
The Rutgers defense allowed more points than it had in any other Big East game this season in a 27-6 loss to Pittsburgh. The Scarlet Knights were blown off the ball from the start and quickly fell behind 21-0 in the first half. By the time they got some offensive production in the second half, it was too late to overcome with Ray Graham and the Panthers eating up yards and clock.
Louisville's loss was much more heartbreaking, especially considering the chances of claiming an outright Big East title with a win. Teddy Bridgewater suffered injuries to his leg and wrist, forcing some extra snaps for Will Stein. But Bridgewater returned from every nick and eventually threw the touchdown passes the Cardinals needed to stay in the game. Unfortunately his last pass was picked off by Blidi Wreh-Wilson in the end zone on the first possession of the third overtime. From there, the Huskies were able to run the ball up the middle and kick a game-winning field goal.
If both teams had won their games Saturday, then Thursday's matchup likely would have been between two nationally-ranked teams. As it stands, we are a Louisville win from breaking out the four-team tiebreakers from the Big East handbook. Rutgers is guaranteed at least a share of the conference title, but will need a win on Thursday to win the league outright and earn the BCS bid. Syracuse has finished its conference schedule with a 5-2 record, and Cincinnati can equal that mark with a win over Connecticut next week.
The Big East is not alone in its slowing momentum toward conference title games. Nebraska needed a go-ahead touchdown from Rex Burkhead to beat Iowa 13-7 in an odd and windy game on Friday, and Georgia Tech, the ACC Coastal Division champion, was blown out by Georgia on Saturday 42-10.
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