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Tag:Big East Title Race
Posted on: December 2, 2011 12:06 am
 

QUICK HITS: West Virginia 30, South Florida 27

Posted by Chip Patterson

WEST VIRGINIA WON. It was a sloppy game with five combined turnovers and 17 combined penalties, but the Mountaineers emerged victorious and earned a share of the Big East title with a 30-27 win over South Florida on Thursday night in Tampa. The Bulls out gained the Mountaineers, who struggled to get anything going offensively until the fourth quarter. West Virginia now needs Cincinnati to beat Connecticut on Saturday to likely win the three-team tiebreaker and earn a bid to a BCS bowl. If Connecticut beats Cincinnati, Louisville will win the two-team tiebreaker and take the BCS bid.

HOW WEST VIRGINIA WON: Capitalizing on South Florida's mistakes. The Bulls shot themselves in the foot over and over down the stretch after dominating for most of the second half. The penalties, missed tackles, and especially BJ Daniels' fumble late in the fourth quarter allowed West Virginia to bounce back after the Bulls rolled off 17 straight points to take a 27-20 lead. While the ground game has sputtered for long stretches this season, West Virginia got the right performance at the right time from Dustin Garrison. The freshman running back picked up 54 of his 88 yards and the only offensive touchdown on the final two Mountaineer drives. South Florida was committing their defense to pass protection, and Garrison found enough room to make moves and keep getting first downs.

WHEN WEST VIRGINIA WON: On 4th and 10 with 13 seconds remaining, Geno Smith found Stedman Bailey for an impressive diving catch in the middle of the field. The Mountaineers were able to spike the ball and set up Tyler Bitancurt for the game-winning field goal as time expired. All of it was set up by BJ Daniels' fumble with more than three minutes remaining at the West Virginia 30 yard line.

WHAT WEST VIRGINIA WON: The best shot they have to keep their BCS hopes alive. Last season the Mountaineers lost the three-team tiebreaker to Connecticut and missed out on a chance to return to a BCS bowl game for the first time since the Rich Rodriguez era. They would not have even had that opportunity this year with a loss on Thursday.

WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA LOST: South Florida missed out on the postseason for the first time since 2004. The close loss was representative of the Bulls' season, which started with so much hope after the first four wins. South Florida has never finished the season with just one conference win, dating all the way back to their Conference USA seasons in 2003-2004.

THAT WAS CRAZY. The Mountaineers average over 35 points per game on the season, but have been slow to get started in their last three contests. West Virginia's first offensive touchdown did not come until there was 5:09 remaining in the game. The last three games have all been slow-starting for the Mountaineers offense, but they have been the three crucial wins needed to keep the BCS hopes alive.

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Posted on: December 1, 2011 9:58 am
Edited on: December 1, 2011 5:39 pm
 

BJ Daniels (shoulder) expected to play in finale

Posted by Chip Patterson

UPDATE: CBSSports.com's Brett McMurphy reports that BJ Daniels (shoulder) has been cleared to play, and is expected to start tonight against West Virginia



With a postseason still left to play for, South Florida starting quarterback BJ Daniels (shoulder) remains questionable for Thursday night's season finale against West Virginia.

The junior told the St. Petersburg Times earlier this week that his status for Thursday was "in God's hands right now." A few local reports out of Tampa are suggesting Daniels has been ruled out for the showdown with the Mountaineers, but my guess is it will be another game-time decision for head coach Skip Holtz.

Daniels injured his shoulder in the Bulls' 6-3 loss to Miami on Nov. 19, bruising the AC joint in his throwing shoulder after getting hit on a quarterback scramble in the third quarter. He was on the field warming up before South Florida's 34-24 loss to Louisville on Friday, though never saw any time on the field.

For the second season in a row, sophomore Bobby Eveld has been called on to fill in for an injured Daniels. Eveld completed 20 of 35 passes for 210 yards with a touchdown and interception in the loss to the Cardinals, but got no help from the Bulls' defense that gave up 24 second half points on the way to the loss.

Despite losing six of their last seven games, the Bulls are still one win away from being bowl eligible. Hopes were high in Tampa after the hot 4-0 start that included a 23-20 upset of Notre Dame and high-scoring performances against Florida A&M and UTEP. But unfortunately for South Florida fans, the untimely slide has left them out of another wide-open conference title race that could result in sending 7-5 Louisville to the Orange Bowl.

While South Florida is out of the race, Thursday night's game is one of two pivotal conference games remaining that will dictate the tie-breaker scenario for the Big East's BCS bowl bid. Louisville has clinched at least a share of the Big East title, and both West Virginia and Cincinnati will have a chance to do the same this weekend. Here is a reminder of the four scenarios for the BCS bid.

SCENARIO I
Cincinnati defeats Connecticut, South Florida defeats West Virginia. RESULT: Cincinnati earns BCS bid
SCENARIO II
Connecticut defeats Cincinnati, West Virginia defeats South Florida. RESULT: Louisville earns BCS bid
SCENARIO III
Connecticut defeats Cincinnati, South Florida defeats West Virginia. RESULT: Louisville earns BCS bid
SCENARIO IV
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. Currently, West Virginia holds this advantage with a No. 23 ranking in the most recent BCS standings.

While many around South Florida expect Daniels to be out, I imagine he will remain "Questionable" and in uniform on the sideline if needed. While Eveld has found some success under center for the Bulls, Daniels' ability to scramble and create the big play himself adds another dimension to the South Florida offense. West Virginia's pass rush helped seal the come-from-behind 21-20 victory against Pittsburgh in the Backyard Brawl, and whoever is under center can expect to see more of the same on Friday night.

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Posted on: November 27, 2011 2:00 am
Edited on: November 27, 2011 2:29 am
 

Big East Winners and Losers: Week 13



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.

SCENARIO I
Cincinnati defeats Connecticut, South Florida defeats West Virginia. RESULT: Cincinnati earns BCS bid
SCENARIO II
Connecticut defeats Cincinnati, West Virginia defeats South Florida. RESULT: Louisville earns BCS bid
SCENARIO III
Connecticut defeats Cincinnati, South Florida defeats West Virginia. RESULT: Louisville earns BCS bid
SCENARIO IV
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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Posted on: November 25, 2011 10:28 pm
Edited on: November 26, 2011 4:19 pm
 

Big East Race Update: Louisville in driver's seat

Posted by Chip Patterson

Heading into Week 13 Louisville, Rutgers, West Virginia, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh were all in contention for a share of the Big East title and a possible BCS bowl bid. With Friday's action in the books, we reset the title race looking at the rest of the schedule.

Louisville (7-5, 5-2 conference)
Week 13 result: 34-24 win at South Florida. Claim share of Big East title
Week 14 opponent: None
Needs for BCS bid: A Cincinnati loss to Connecticut in Week 14.
Outlook: The Cardinals are the one team in the race who have done everything on their end. The Cardinals could have clinched the BCS bid with a Cincinnati loss to Syracuse, but now they become huge UConn fans for next Saturday.  Louisville owns the head-to-head against West Virginia, but would lose in a head-to-head or three-way tie involving Cincinnati.

Rutgers (8-4, 4-3 conference)
Week 13 opponent: 40-22 loss at Connecticut
Week 14 opponent: None
Needs for BCS bid: Out of the race.
Outlook: Friday's Louisville win cemented 5-2 as the mark needed to be in BCS contention.  With the loss, the Scarlet Knights will prepare for another bowl invitation.

Cincinnati (8-3, 4-2 conference)
Week 13 opponent: 30-13 win at Syracuse 
Week 14 opponent: vs Connecticut, Dec. 3 12:00 p.m. ET
Needs for BCS bid: Win at home against Connecticut, West Virignia loss to South Florida on Thursday.
Outlook: The Bearcats had the most work left to do, and things looked bleak without Zach Collaros.  But Munchie Legaux and Jordan Luallen worked a two-quarterback rotation into a nice offensive rhythm in the second half.  The Bearcats will also be paying attention to the BCS standings in case of a three-way tie at 5-2.

West Virginia (8-3, 4-2 conference)
Week 13 result: 21-20 win vs West Virginia
Week 14 opponent: at South Florida, Thursday 8:00 p.m. ET
Needs for BCS bid: The Mountaineers would lose a tiebreaker with Louisville, so the best case scenario involves a three-way tie with Louisville and Cincinnati.  The hope for Mountaineers' fans being a higher BCS ranking thanks to a tougher schedule.
Outlook: Cincinnati looking sharp in the second half is promising for West Virignia, who is hoping for a three-way tie.  The Mountaineers should get some help from the computers thanks to a tougher non-conference schedule, but they still need to beat a tough USF squad in Tampa. 

Pittsburgh (5-6, 3-3 conference)
Week 13 Result: 21-20 loss at West Virginia
Week 14 opponent: vs Syracuse, 12:00 p.m. ET
Needs for BCS bid: Out of the race.
Outlook: With the 21-20 loss to West Virginia on Friday night, the Panthers were eliminated from the Big East title race.  



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Posted on: November 12, 2011 4:40 pm
 

QUICK HITS: West Virginia 24, Cincinnati 21

Posted by Chip Patterson

WEST VIRGINIA WON. Dana Holgorsen only wanted to take winners with him to Cincinnati, and those who made the trip will return to Morgantown as winners after holding on for a 24-21 victory over the Bearcats. Cincinnati had a chance to to tie the game with a 31-yard field goal, but Tony Miliano's kick was blocked and the Mountaineers held on for the win.  Cincinnati starting quarterback Zach Collaros left the game with an apprent leg injury suffered on a fumble forced by Bruce Irvin

HOW WEST VIRGINIA WON: Few weapons on the West Virginia roster are as valuable as wide receiver Tavon Austin. Austin did about everything for West Virginia, totaling 246 all-purpose yards on the afternoon. Austin and fellow wide receiver Stedman Bailey were once again favorite targets for quarterback Geno Smith, who finished with 376 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. The Mountaineers overcame two missed field goals, 13 penalties, and only 28 yards rushing to squeak out the victory. Much of the credit can be given to the West Virginia defense, which responded well when the Bearcats were forced to turn to backup quarterback Munchie Legaux.

WHEN WEST VIRGINIA WON: West Virginia got a huge boost when Collaros left the game with a leg injury. The senior quarterback is the key to making the Cincinnati offense hum, and Legaux did not find his rhythm until late in the third quarter. But after giving up the lead to the Bearcats early in the fourth quarter, Geno Smith answered by orchestrating an impressive 12 play, 74 yard drive on the next possession to immediately re-take the lead for good.

WHAT WEST VIRGINIA WON: A loss would have knocked the Mountaineers from Big East title contention. But the victory not only kept their BCS hopes alive, but gave them the advantage should the Bearcats drop another conference game down the stretch. .

WHAT CINCINNATI LOST: The all-important head-to-head tie breaker against a conference title contender. The Bearcats can not afford another conference loss down the stretch, now needing to keep a game of separation ahead of West Virginia. Not to mention the potential loss of Collaros, who was on crutches by the end of the game. .

THAT WAS CRAZY: The Big East standings are now a complete muddled mess. With Cincinnati and Louisville losing on Saturday, six teams are within one game of the lead in the standings heading into the final weeks of play. Every game now carries a huge importance, as tiebreaker scenarios will play themselves out in these final contests.

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Posted on: November 5, 2011 10:37 pm
Edited on: November 5, 2011 10:40 pm
 

QUICK HITS: No. 23 Cincinnati 26, Pittsburgh 23

Posted by Chip Patterson

CINCINNATI WON. The Bearcats overcame a frustrating start offensively to battle back from a 10-point third quarter deficit and win 26-23 at Pittsburgh. Quarterback Zach Collaros completed just 19 of 32 passes for 214 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions as the defense held Pittsburgh scoreless in the final 28 minutes of play.

HOW CINCINNATI WON: Pittsburgh entered Saturday night's game leading the nation with 36 sacks allowed. In the second half, protection for quarterback Tino Sunseri evaporated and the Bearcats pass rush kept the Panthers' offense out of sync and off rhythm. Even in Week 10, the talented offensive line is still struggling with the new offensive scheme. Pittsburgh's offensive inefficiencies in the second half gave Cincinnati enough opportunities to to climb back into the game. Credit the Bearcats defense for stepping up the pressure and allowing Cincinnati to remain undefeated in conference play.

WHEN CINCINNATI WON: Pittsburgh kicker Kevin Harper hit a career-long 52 yard field goal in the first quarter, but with the option of a 55-yard field goal head coach Todd Graham decided to go for it on fourth down. The misread by quarterback Tino Sunseri on the 4th and 6 pass to Devin Street gave the ball back to the Bearcats with less than four minutes remaining. But then Harper was given another shot, with a 50-yard field goal opportunity in the final seconds to tie the game. The kick went wide right, and Cincinnati held on to win a crucial conference road game.

WHAT CINCINNATI WON: The Bearcats hold on to their spot at the top of the Big East standings, gaining two games on West Virginia. Cincinnati owns the head-to-head tie breaker with one-loss Louisville, and a win next week against West Virginia could give them great odds at sealing the Big East title in November.

WHAT PITTSBURGH LOST: The Panthers lost a ten point second-half lead that could have been a season-altering home victory. With road contests against Louisville and West Virginia in the coming weeks, Pittsburgh needed to get that fifth win tonight to give themselves the best chance at bowl eligibility. At 4-5, things are not looking as promising for Todd Graham in his first year at the helm.

THAT WAS CRAZY: Pittsburgh had so many opportunities to win the game, but Tino Sunseri and the Panthers offense could not get close enough to Harper's comfort zone to tie the game. Two potential game-tying drives in the final minutes produced no points, and Butch Jones' bounce-back second year continues as Cincinnati improves to 7-1.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com