Posted by Chip Patterson
So far in 2010, the Big East conference has lacked many defining or memorable moments in conference play. Those moments that every team in the conference will remember that game that changed the landscape across the entire league. It feels fitting then, that one of those performances came in the 103rd Backyard Brawl between Pittsburgh and West Virginia. The Panthers entered the game sitting in the driver's seat on the way to a BCS bowl game. A win over their rivals on Senior Day in Pittsburgh could put the Panthers just one Connecticut loss away from that coveted automatic bid.
Unfortunately, the Panthers have failed to shake the late-season struggles that crashed their conference championship hopes a season ago. Pittsburgh entered this same weekend in 2009 undefeated in conference play, only to lose back-to-back games to West Virginia and Cincinnati to finish the season. On Friday, Pittsburgh started this home stretch just like last year with a 35-10 loss to the Mountaineers in the Backyard Brawl. With the win, West Virginia has turned around a disappointing middle of the season and set themselves up with a chance to win the conference.
But the biggest winner in the Big East on Friday was Connecticut. If the Huskies can pull out a win against Cincinnati at home on Saturday they will be one win away from their first BCS Bowl appearance in program history. Connecticut just joined the conference in 2004, and nothing would be a higher compliment to Randy Edsall and his staff than to finish 2010 as the Big East Champions. The best advantage the Huskies have in the race is owning the tie-breaker against both Pittsburgh and West Virginia thanks to their current three-game winnning streak.
But with Pittsburgh's loss on Friday, it sets up a fantastic finish for the Big East title. The Huskies control their own destiny, but with one loss could open the door for West Virginia. West Virginia just needs a win next week and one Connecticut loss to clinch the conference, and Pittsburgh can still finally grasp that conference title with a win over Cincinnati and one loss from both West Virginia and Connecticut.
Regardless of who your dog is in the fight, all eyes will be turned towards Storrs on Saturday. The Huskies, the one team who controls their own destiny, will take the field against a Bearcats squad that has the chance to spoil title hopes for two teams. Critics will argue that this finish is a result of season-long mediocrity, but the football fan in all of us is happy with the added significance to these late-season conference battles.