Posted on: November 28, 2011 1:07 pm
Edited on: November 28, 2011 1:36 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
There's just something about a few helpings of turkey and some good old fashioned hate for a rival football team.
As the season winds down and, in most cases, ends for teams that don't qualify for a bowl game or conference championship, rivalry week is when many schools put all the eggs in the basket to go into the offseason knowing they went out on a high note.
Because of that, there was no better scene in college football this weekend than Lexington, Kentucky.
Despite using a wide receiver at quarterback due to injuries, Kentucky still managed to pull off a win against Tennessee for the first time since 1984. On the whole, it was a disappointing year but the win over the Volunteers will give the team something positive to think about in the offseason. That AD Mitch Barnhart announced that head coach Joker Phillips would be back for sure next season also added to a historic day for the program.
The scene afterward was what college football was all about. Fans rushed the field to celebrate with players, everyone of whom had a gigantic smile on their face. That they attempted just six passes for 15 yards to win ugly didn't matter, a win is a win and this one meant more than the other four they had during the season.
Perhaps it was appropriate that the Wildcats wore black jerseys because it felt afterward like a funeral for Tennessee, who lost out on a chance to go to a bowl game with the loss. The Derek Dooley era is on shaky ground after barely beating Vanderbilt and, now, ending the streak over Kentucky. No doubt the slick-haired, orange pants wearing Dooley had to take over a difficult situation but it's still Tennessee. There are players there and the defense isn't too bad with Justin Wilcox running things but there has been zero consistency.
The losses are one thing for Dooley but the lack of wins might be the most concerning part if you're a Vols fan. He's never beaten a ranked team and has no signature victory that he can hold his hat on. You can understand why they're clamoring for his head in Knoxville.
It was a slightly different scene in College Station - except for the clamoring for the head coach's head part.
It was once again a second half to forget for Texas A&M, as they ended their final scheduled game with Texas by falling on their face. There was plenty of optimism coming in that the Aggies would get the last laugh before leaving for the SEC but it was the Longhorn players who had no problem starting up an "S-E-C!" chant following the victory.
"Sports can be really cruel," Mack Brown said. "I think it was a time tonight where both teams deserved to win."
After 118 meetings, it was pretty cruel for things to end that way. Kyle Field had erupted following Ryan Tannehill's pass to Jeff Fuller for a 16 yard touchdown to take the lead but was silent after Justin Tucker's 40 yard field goal sailed through the uprights.
"They played their hearts out tonight," Tucker said. "But sending them off to the SEC with a sour taste in their mouth feels pretty good."
Nothing like beating a rival.
Stat of the week
In 26 games among BCS AQ schools or ranked non-AQ schools on Saturday, just two were within seven points and the average margin of victory was 20 points.
Stats of week
- Alabama held Auburn to a 3-and-out on 7-of-10 drives and now has 72 3-and-outs in 143 opponent drives (50.3%)
- Since 2007, Tennessee and Kentucky are both 33-31. The Wildcats beat the Vols for the first time in 26 games, a span of 9,863 days. Tennessee finishes the year with consecutive losing records for the first time since 1910-11.
- Texas A&M was outscored 76-7 in the third quarter of their losses.
- Via the AP, Nebraska has nine or more wins for the 38th time in 42 seasons (90%).
- LSU's secondary has scored as many touchdowns (6) as they've allowed.
- Not sure if Trent Richardson helped win the Heisman with his career-high 203 yards in the Iron Bowl but he did nothing but bolster his resume. Remarkably the score at halftime was the same (24-7) as it was a year ago when some guy named Cam wiped out the deficit on the way to a championship. There would be no comeback from the Tigers this time thanks in large part to the suffocating Tide defense that allowed just 140 yards of offense. The lone bright spot for the home team was Onterio McCalebb's 83-yard kick return (the first ever in Iron Bowl history) that seemed to give the team some hope before Alabama quickly closed the door. All in all, a dominating effort for a team that has well over a month to prepare for their rematch with LSU.
- Impressive season for Louisville's Charlie Strong, who has done one of the best coaching jobs in the country by clinching at least a share of the Big East title with a win 34-24 over South Florida. Early losses, including one to FIU, seemed to show that the team was at least a year away from being in contention in the league but Strong righted the ship and freshman quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has really come on as of late, passing for three touchdowns against USF. Amazingly, the win snapped a 16-game losing streak in the state of Florida during the regular season. That the Cardinals are in contention for a BCS bowl berth boggles the mind if you watched this team early in the year.
- You would not have expected Rex Burkhead to play against Iowa if you saw him on Monday when he had his foot in a walking boot. He shredded the boot by Saturday however and had no issues pounding away at the Hawkeyes defense, rushing for 160 yards and a touchdown in Nebraska's 20-7 win. Surprisingly, his 38 carries were a school-record and came just a week after one of his worst games of his career against Michigan. It was just part of a punishing offensive attack against Iowa that gave the team an amazing 16 minute time of possession advantage. You can tell why Bo Pellini decided to keep things on the ground after Taylor Martinez tossed a few arm punts early in the game.
- Andrew Luck's final home game ended on a high note as he passed John Elway's school record for career touchdown passes and gave Heisman voters some more to think about. Beating a marquee opponent like Notre Dame on national television helps too, as the Cardinal jumped out to a 21-0 lead at halftime and never really lost control of the game.
- Down the road in Los Angeles, Matt Barkley made his case to be invited to New York. In what could have been his final game in cardinal and gold, he passed for 423 yards and six touchdowns on a record setting night to throttle UCLA 50-0. "One more year" chants were heard throughout the game but it was a heck of a way for USC to end their bowl ban and put an exclamation point on what has been a terrific season under Lane Kiffin. Things aren't too pretty for the other side as the Bruins were not only humiliated at the Coliseum, but likely will be blitzed just as bad in the Pac-12 Championship game. The "gap" between the two programs that Rick Neuheisel talked about being closed appeared to have never been wider than it was Saturday night.
- Tulsa was supposed to represent Houston's stiffest test of the season but the trip to Oklahoma proved to be anything but as the Cougars rolled in the second half to secure Conference USA hosting duties. As good as Case Keenum was at quarterback, Patrick Edwards was the star of the show, grabbing four touchdowns and 181 yards to break the conference career record for receiving yards. The Golden Hurricanes had been undefeated in league play but Keenum found Edwards on 4th down in the 3rd quarter and it was away they go. Houston converted several 4th downs and built up style points as Keenum threw for 457 yards and a ho-hum five touchdowns before being pulled. Perhaps the biggest surprise was the Cougars defense, who held a normally high-scoring Tulsa attack to just 16 points.
- When Arkansas came into Baton Rouge, the Hogs represented the toughest passing attack LSU would see all season. Luckily the Tigers had the nation's best secondary and one player in particular - the Honey Badger. Tyrann Mathieu is simply a playmaker whenever his team needs it most and you could tell Friday when he returned a punt 92 yards for a touchdown that seemed to turn the tide just when it looked like Arkansas was making a game of it. The offense was pretty good too, with Kenny Hilliard, Spencer Ware and even Jordan Jefferson (despite a boneheaded play or two) causing the Razorbacks defense issues. The 21 third quarter points - keyed in part by Mathieu - might have pushed LSU ahead but it was the rushing attack in the 4th quarter that turned a solid win into a blowout. It's no surprise that plenty of people invoked the name Billy Cannon after the game considering that the last time there was a top-three match up in Death Valley, Cannon returned a punt for a score against Ole Miss. Of course it was Mathieu doing the honors this time as the Tigers kept their record perfect on the road to Atlanta and on to New Orleans.
- If you had to say a team was due before the year was up, Colorado was a good choice. The Buffaloes, despite their record, had a pretty decent offense but just couldn't perform on defense or on the road. Although Utah was at home and playing for a chance to go to the Pac-12 title game, the Buffs jumped out to an early lead and managed to hang on to beat the Utes 17-14. Normally reliable field goal kicker Coleman Petersen missed the final kick with seconds left to go 0-3 on the day and diminish Utah's hopes of a solid debut season in a BCS conference. What was billed as the start of a new rivalry between new conference foes turned out to be a historic win for Colorado, as the team ended a 23-game road losing streak. Utah was hampered by the loss of running back John White but there was no question that they should have won this game but a few breaks went the way of CU. Before the season head coach Jon Embree talked about putting up bricks to build a wall of success that the program had done in its glory days and on a chilly Friday afternoon, he added one more thanks to the upset on the road.
- The Countdown Clock on the Columbus Dispatch's website was probably already setup to change following Saturday's Ohio State-Michigan game. Things were closer than expected in the Wolverines 40-34 win at the Big House, a testament to just how hard the Buckeyes fought to keep their streak alive. Braxton Miller was great until his final play, an interception to seal the game, and out-played his counterpart Denard Robinson for much of the afternoon. UM got the last laugh when the gun sounded by ending a streak that had gone nearly 3,000 days but if there was one take away from the annual rivalry game, it's that Miller should be fun to watch in Urban Meyer's offense.
- Most impressive victory this weekend might have been Wisconsin throttling Penn State 45-7. The Nittany Lions have the best defense in the Big Ten but they were ran over by Montee Ball, who scored four touchdowns and has a chance at setting the NCAA single-season record. The rematch with Michigan State for a trip to the Rose Bowl just got a little more interesting.
- If you haven't been able to watch Luke Kuechly play linebacker at Boston College, you missed out on one of the hardest working players in the game. Don't worry, he'll probably be a 10+ year vet in the NFL so there should be plenty of chances to see him in the future though. Surprisingly, Kuechly didn't reach the double-digit tackles plateau for the first time since his freshman year but he did run back an interception for a touchdown and made life tough for Miami in a 24-17 upset. The talented 'backer also became the school's all-time tackles leader and showed why he could be a potential first round pick if he decides to leave school early. On the flip side, Jacory Harris - after perhaps his best season - reverted to the Harris of old by tossing four interceptions in his final college game. While there were not many people watching (in the stands or on TV), the result was overshadowed by the news of the day as Miami announced head coach Al Golden had agreed to a four-year extension that would keep in in Coral Gables until 2020.
- In a/the Backyard Brawl, all rules are off. The intense series between Pitt and West Virginia faced an uncertain future with both moving to different conferences but on the field in 2011 the two had no problem giving everybody a compelling game. The Panthers had jumped out to a 17-7 half-time lead but were simply shut down by a swarming Mountaineers defense in the second half that kept things close enough that the sputtering WVU offense could eventually cash-in a game-winning touchdown. It was a wild ending in a series full of them but Dana Holgorsen's squad managed to pull things out. Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri had a rough night, being sacked 10 (!) times, four of which came on a crazy final drive.
- If you want to know why Dennis Erickson was shown the door at Arizona State, look no further than the late night showdown against an improving California team. It was in many ways it was young (Bears) against and the old (Sun Devils). Erickson's squad was trying to salvage the season and his job, Jeff Tedford's group was trying to build upon the second half of their season. It was a defense-optional shootout like the Pac-10 days of old but Cal managed to force four turnovers that likely ended up as the deciding factor. Credit to Tedford who helped his cause while Erickson killed his, this was a fun game but defense - surprisingly - decided things and that ended up in Cal's favor.
- In terms of surprises, Virginia Tech shutting out a hot Virginia team at home might be highly ranked on the list. It was the Cavaliers first home shutout loss since 1984 and they had zero ground game to speak of (30 yards on 26 carries). It was likely the Hokies best win of the season to date and continued a strong run by quarterback Logan Thomas.
Tweet of the week
"USC card stunts say "We run LA." Based on how poorly the city is run, I would not brag about that.
- Chris Huston, The Hesiman Pundit
3. Oklahoma State
7. Boise State
10. Virginia Tech
Where we'll be this week
I draw the early assignment and will head up Eugene for the Pac-12 Championship game with Oregon and UCLA on Friday. Eye on College Football bloggers Chip Patterson and Adam Jacobi will head to the ACC and Big Ten Championships respectively. Brett McMurphy makes the trip to see Bedlam between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State while Dennis Dodd joins Tony Barnhart in Atlanta for the SEC Championship.
Leaning this way
Georgia vs. LSU
Do the Bulldogs have a chance? No, not really. Even if they did, it appears the Tigers are locked into a trip to the BCS National Championship game in New Orleans either way. Les Miles' secondary already took care of the best quarterback in the SEC West last week and will do pretty much the same to the best quarterback in the SEC East down in Atlanta.
Oklahoma at Oklahoma State
Don't let the loss to Iowa State fool you, Oklahoma State is still a very good team and their opportunistic defense should enjoy playing Landry Jones on the road. The Sooners haven't really been the same team they were earlier in the season thanks to several injuries - their top running back and wide receiver among them - and they've had their troubles at Boone Pickens Stadium before. Expect it to be close but ultimately the Cowboys will win the game and the Big 12.
Wisconsin vs. Michigan State
These teams are so evenly matched that it took a hail mary for the Spartans to beat the Badgers the first time. That pass isn't something that Wisconsin players forgot about and have a chance to avenge it for a trip to the Rose Bowl. The offense has been rolling the past couple of weeks behind Montee Ball and Russell Wilson so look for them to do some damage against Michigan State the second time around.
Tags: Adam Jacobi, Al Golden, Alabama, Andrew Luck, Arizona State, Arkansas, Auburn, Backyard Brawl, Bedlam, Big East, Big House, Billy Cannon, Bo Pellini, Boise State, Boone Pickens Stadium, Boston College, Braxton Miller, Brett McMurphy, Bryan Fischer, California, Cam Newton, Case Keenum, Charlie Strong, Chip Patterson, Chris Huston, Coleman Petersen, Colorado, Conference USA, Denard Robinson, Dennis Dodd, Dennis Erickson, Derek Dooley, FIU, Georgia, Heisman, Heisman Trophy, Houston, Iowa, Iowa State, Iron Bowl, Jacory Harris, Jeff Fuller, Jeff Tedford, John Elway, Joker Phillips, Jon Embree, Jordan Jefferson, Justin Tucker, Justin Wilcox, Kenny Hilliard, Kentucky, Kyle Field, Landry Jones, Lane Kiffin, Les Miles, Logan Thomas, Louisville, LSU, Luke Kuechly, Mack Brown, Matt Barkley, Miami, Michigan, Michigan, MIchigan State, Mitch Barnhart, NCAA, Nebraska, NFL, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, Onterio McCalebb, Oregon, Pac-10, Pac-12 Championship Game, Patrick Edwards, Penn State, Pitt, Rex Burkhead, Rick Neuheisel, Rose Bowl, Russell Wilson, Ryan Tannehill, SEC, South Florida, Spencer Ware, Taylor Martinez, Teddy Bridgewater, Tennessee, Texas, Texas A&M, Tino Sunseri, Tony Barnhart, Trent Richardson, Tulsa, Tyrann Mathieu, UCLA, Urban Meyer, USC, Utah, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Wisconsin
Posted on: November 27, 2011 2:00 am
Edited on: November 27, 2011 2:29 am
Posted by Chip Patterson
A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.
WINNER: Charlie Strong
In his first year, Charlie Strong was showered with praise for his ability to pull a veteran group together and give the seniors their first bowl win at Louisville. Expectations were tempered heading into 2011, with the Cardinals having to replace departed veterans up and down the depth chart. With the 34-24 win against South Florida on Friday, Louisville wrapped up their best conference record since Bobby Petrino's final season in 2006. But this success carries with it an extra feeling of accomplishment, bouncing back from early season losses to FIU and Marshall. Strong seemed frustrated at times this season, using phrases like "we just need to teach the game of football" to explain the status of his young team. But the Cardinals improved as the season progressed, and delivered their best performance when it counts in league play. With Strong's momentum and this young roster, it would not be surprising to see Louisville in the mix for the Big East title for the foreseeable future.
LOSER: BCS dreams for Rutgers and Pittsburgh
Rutgers and Pittsburgh fell from contention for a share of the Big East title - and thus a shot at a BCS bowl game - with devastating losses in Week 13. Pittsburgh gave up a 20-7 second half lead on West Virginia and Rutgers turned the ball over six times to help Connecticut run away with a 40-22 win. With the Scarlet Knights and Panthers out of the mix, the Big East title race has narrowed to three contenders: Louisville, Cincinnati, and West Virginia.
Louisville has finished their season with a 5-2 conference record, while the Mountaineers and Bearcats each have one game remaining. Here are the possible scenarios and outcomes in the hunt for a BCS bowl bid.
Cincinnati defeats Connecticut, South Florida defeats West Virginia. RESULT: Cincinnati earns BCS bid
Connecticut defeats Cincinnati, West Virginia defeats South Florida. RESULT: Louisville earns BCS bid
Connecticut defeats Cincinnati, South Florida defeats West Virginia. RESULT: Louisville earns BCS bid
Cincinnati defeats Connecticut, West Virginia defeats South Florida. RESULT: Three-way tie for Big East title. BCS bid determined by highest ranking in BCS standings.
WINNER: The Rebuilt Cincinnati Offense
Most figured that Zach Collaros' absence from the Cincinnati offense would lead to some struggles, but the Bearcats' Big East title hopes looked dim after the first full game without him resulted in just three points. Backup Munchie Legaux looked out-of-rhythm all afternoon in the 20-3 loss to Rutgers, completing just 12 of 31 passes and picking up only 31 rushing yards on 12 attempts. Earlier this week head coach Butch Jones suggested the possibility of using two quarterbacks against Syracuse, giving more snaps to dual-threat sophomore Jordan Luallen. Luallen ended up being the perfect change of pace for the Bearcats' offense, and finished as the team's second-leading rusher with 77 yards.
The pair made the two-QB rotation work at Cincinnati, finally hitting a rhythm and putting together a five scoring drives in the final 35 minutes of play. But the star of the Bearcats' big conference win was not a new face, but an all-too familiar one for Big East opponents. Senior running back Isaiah Pead picked up 80 yards rushing and 112 yards receiving out of the backfield on the way to 246 all-purpose yard performance to lead the Bearcats. Pead has been a force for Cincinnati, and is just 38 rushing yards away from his second-straight 1,000 yard season. The win has put Cincinnati one win away from claiming a share of the Big East title, and the decisive win should help in the BCS rankings for a potential three-team tiebreaker.
LOSER: Pittsburgh RB Zach Brown
The fact that Pittsburgh has been able to stay in contention for a Big East BCS bid even after losing Ray Graham to a season-ending knee injury is astounding. Graham was the nations second-leading rusher at the time of his injury, averaging over 130 yards per game and contributing over 40% of Pittsburgh's total offense. Quarterback Tino Sunseri and backup running back Zach Brown were able to carry the offensive load in a crucial road win at Louisville last week, and appeared to have the Panthers set up for another in Morgantown. Pitt led 17-7 when Brown was injured on a long run in the final moments of the first half. For the remainder of the game, third-stringer Isaac Bennett carried the running back responsibilities almost exclusively. Bennett did finish with 69 yards and a touchdown on the ground, but there was a noticeable drop off in pass protection as Sunseri was sacked 10 times - including four times on the final drive. The entire offense struggled throughout the second half, only producing a Kevin Harper field goal in the early third quarter, and Brown's injury was the most noticeable change. Regardless of the fault, the Panthers are out of the Big East title hunt and now need a win over Syracuse to be bowl eligible.
WINNER: Connecticut's bowl hopes
Needing to win out against Rutgers and Cincinnati seemed like a daunting task for an inconsistent Connecticut team to become bowl eligible, but that campaign received new life in a 40-22 beatdown of the Scarlet Knights on Saturday. The Huskies got it done with big plays from their defense, special teams, and a bruising rushing attack led by freshman Lyle McCombs. Quarterbacks Johnny McEntee and Scott McCummings were given fantastic field position all day, benefiting from six Rutgers turnovers and a couple of big returns by Nick Williams. Once they got the ball close to the goal line, it was up to McCombs and McCummings to McGet the job done. The duo combined for all four of the Huskies' offensive touchdowns, giving the Huskies a 30-point lead heading into the fourth quarter. It's been a rough first season for head coach Paul Pasqualoni, but a .500 record and a bowl berth would be a great finish considering the 2-4 start in East Hartford.
LOSER: Backyard Brawl as a Big East tradition
With Pittsburgh and West Virginia both on the move out of the Big East, Friday's edition of the Backyard Brawl was possibly the last meeting of rivals as conference foes. As of Saturday Pittsburgh is still planning on an arrival in the ACC in 2014, while Oliver Luck and West Virginia have taken the legal route to try and join the Big 12 by next season. The Big East chapter of the West Virginia-Pittsburgh rivalry has been memorable, with the game serving as annual late-season highlight of the conference schedule since the Mountaineers joined in 1995. Four of the last five meetings between the two teams have been decided by one score or less, with the 21-20 West Virginia win being the closest contest since a 31-31 tie in 1989. The rivalry outdates the Big East, so I would guess the two schools will figure a way to keep it going. But Big East football fans have a less certain future when it comes to enjoying this showdown of bitter rivals as part of the conference schedule.
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Tags: Backyard Brawl, Big East, Big East Championship Race, Big East Standings, Big East Tiebreaker Scenarios, Big East Tiebreakers, Big East title race, BJ Daniels, Butch Jones, Charlie Strong, Chip Patterson, Cincinnati, Dana Holgorsen, Dominique Brown, Gary Nova, Geno Smith, Greg Schiano, Isaac Bennett, Jawan Jamison, Johnny McEntee, Jordan Luallen, Louisville, Lyle McCombs, Munchie Legaux, Oliver Luck, Paul Pasqualoni, Pittsburgh, Ray Graham, Rutgers, Scott McCummings, Skip Holtz, South Florida, Teddy Bridgewater, Tino Sunseri, Todd Graham, USF, Week 13 Winners and Losers, West Virginia, Winners and Losers, Zach Brown, Zach Collaros
Posted on: December 7, 2010 4:08 pm
Edited on: December 7, 2010 4:09 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
When Dave Wannstedt took over as head coach of the Pittsburgh Panthers before the 2005 season, his charge was to "bring Pitt to the next level." At the conclusion of the 2010 season, the Panthers announced their bid to a bowl in January. But it was not the January bowl that Panthers fans had hoped for out of Wannstedt's tenure.
Fanhouse's Brett McMurphy reported on Tuesday that Dave Wannstedt's time at Pittsburgh has come to a close. After six seasons only added up to a 42-31 record, three bowl appearances, and no Big East titles; the Pittsburgh program clearly feels it is time to look elsewhere.
Frank Cignetti will fill in as the interim coach for that thrilling BBVA Compass Bowl against Kentucky on January 8 in Birmingham. The bowl will have an odd feeling for Panthers fans, after watching Connecticut take the field against Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl a week earlier. A month ago, the Panthers controlled their own destiny in the Big East, and looked ready to finally get that conference title Wannstedt was hoping for. But after losing to the Huskies, and getting blown out by rival West Virginia, the Panthers found themselves jumbled at the top of the standings holding no tie-breakers.
Posted on: December 1, 2010 3:27 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
A week ago, many believed that both coaches in the 103rd Backyard Brawl were entering the game with their jobs on the line. West Virginia stunned Pittsburgh at home, holding them to just one touchdown in the 35-10 victory. While coaching rumors may have swirled with Bill Stewart retirement rumors, things appear to be fine in Morgantown as the Mountaineers still have a chance to win the Big East and earn a bid to a BCS bowl game.
The Panthers, on the other hand, will have to deal with a second (or worse) place finish in the conference despite controlling their own destiny at the beginning of November. By dropping crucial late-season tilts against Connecticut and West Virginia, Pittsburgh stepped aside and allowed both teams to break through at the forefront of the Big East. It was suggested that head coach Dave Wannstedt, hired to bring Pitt "to the next level," might have a closing window of opportunity in Pittsburgh. His 41-28 record with the Panthers includes no conference titles, and only two bowl games in five seasons. But Wannstedt seems confident his job is safe for now.
"We're trying to win Saturday," Wannstedt said at his weekly news conference. "I'm not concerned with [job security], we're just trying to beat Cincinnati. Trust me. We aren't going to graduate many players, we have a great future and a lot of recruits committed and a good young team coming back, really."
Wannstedt proceeded to list the key injuries and provide further explanation for the Panthers troubles. But injury reports do not always work as appropriate excuses for unhappy fan bases. When Pittsburgh was sitting in first place, I circled this date with Cincinnati as a trap game for a team with BCS hopes. Now, it may have become a must-win for their head coach. Even if Wannstedt has the support of the administration and his staff, the fans will be calling for answers if the Panthers drop three of their last four conference games in a season that started with a No. 15 ranking in the polls.
Posted on: November 26, 2010 8:35 pm
Edited on: November 26, 2010 8:39 pm
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.
Posted on: November 26, 2010 1:40 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
If you were to just look at the numbers from the first half of the Backyard Brawl, you would have to assume that Pitt was leading West Virginia. Just look at these things.
Pitt has outgained WVU 130 yards to 59. The Panthers have 12 first downs to West Virginia's two. On third down, the Panthers are 8-of-12 converting. The Mountaineers? 1-of-4.
So what's the score? It's 14-7...West Virginia.
As is usually the case in games like this, it's turnovers that are deciding the outcome. Pitt has turned it over three times and West Virginia hasn't. Two of those turnovers led to all 14 Mountaineers points.
On West Virginia's two scoring drives in the first half, they've run a total of 4 plays.
So, on one hand, if you're Dave Wannstedt you have to be somewhat pleased with your team today. After all, a win keeps your team in line for a BCS berth, and they have outplayed West Virginia through the first thirty minutes. On the other hand, you were probably hoping that the dumb mistakes and turnovers that had plagued your team through the first ten games of the season had been fixed, and it's clear that they just haven't been.
Still, Pitt is only down seven points. If it can manage to hold on to the ball in the second half, and keep playing the way it has been, the Panthers should leave this game with a win.
Posted on: November 20, 2010 6:19 pm
Edited on: November 20, 2010 6:53 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
With Pittsburgh and West Virginia collecting wins on Saturday, the road to a BCS Bowl game will run straight through the Backyard Brawl next week in Pittsburgh. The 103rd meeting of the Panthers and Mountaineers is one of the most pivotal games remaining in the Big East title race. Pittsburgh rode a hot second half from quarterback Tito Sunseri to a 17-10 victory, giving the Panthers a one game lead in the conference with two games left on the schedule.
Syracuse, West Virginia, and Connecticut are the only remaining two-loss teams in the conference, and either the Orange or Huskies will pick up their third conference loss when they square off later this evening. West Virginia will have a chance to tie the Panthers for the best conference record and own the head-to-head tiebreaker with a win next weekend.