Tag:Pittsburgh
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 22, 2011 11:38 am
 

Conference Title Race Reset, Week 13

Posted by Chip Patterson

With the regular season winding down, we'll check in on the conference title races in all 11 FBS conferences. The contenders, key games, and some early predictions on who will claim the league's automatic bowl berth.

SEC
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Auburn

EAST CONTENDERS
1. Georgia (9-2, 7-1 conference) - CLINCHED

WEST CONTENDERS
1. LSU (11-0, 7-0)
2. Alabama (10-1, 6-1)
2. Arkansas (10-1, 6-1)

LSU needs: Win over Arkansas on Friday, win against Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, and it's on to the BCS title game for the Bayou Bengals.
Alabama needs: Win against Auburn on Saturday, an LSU loss to Arkansas. The three-way tiebreaker in the SEC is decided by BCS standings, which the Tide would likely own after an LSU loss.
Arkansas needs: To beat LSU and for Auburn to upset Alabama on Saturday. The Razorbacks would have the opportunity to move up in the BCS standings with the losses and likely earn the bid to the BCS title game.
Georgia needs: Defeat SEC West Champion in Atlanta to cause mass chaos.

Pick: LSU over Georgia

BIG 12
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Oklahoma

CONTENDERS
1. Oklahoma State (10-1, 7-1 conference)
2. Oklahoma (8-2, 5-2)

Oklahoma State needs: A win over Oklahoma in the Bedlam game on Dec. 3. However, the Cowboys could clinch the conference title with an Oklahoma loss to Iowa State this weekend.
Oklahoma needs: Win out against Iowa State and Oklahoma State to claim share of Big 12 Championship and earn BCS bowl bid.

Pick: Oklahoma State

PAC-12
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game (Rose Bowl or National Championship)
2010 Champion: Oregon

NORTH CONTENDERS
1. Stanford (10-1, 8-1 conference)
2. Oregon (9-2, 7-1)

SOUTH CONTENDERS
1. UCLA (6-5, 5-3)
2. Arizona State (6-5, 4-4)
2. Utah (7-4, 4-4)

Stanford needs: An Oregon loss on Saturday to clinch the Pac-12 North and a bid to the conference championship game.
Oregon needs: A win over Oregon State to move into a tie for the Pac-12 North, earning a championship game bid thanks to the head-to-head tiebreaker.

UCLA needs: A win over USC clinches the Pac-12 South. A loss would result in the Bruins needing Colorado to beat Utah to avoid being jumped by the Utes.
Arizona State needs: A win against Cal and USC to beat UCLA. Even if Utah beats Colorado, the Sun Devils own the three-team tiebreaker.
Utah needs: A win over Colorado, Cal to beat Arizona State on Friday, and USC to beat UCLA on Saturday.

Pick: Oregon over Arizona State

BIG TEN
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game (Rose Bowl or National Championship)
2010 Champion: Wisconsin (Rose Bowl berth)/Michigan State/Ohio State

LEGENDS CONTENDERS
1. Michigan State (9-2, 6-1 conference) - CLINCHED

LEADERS CONTENDERS
1. Penn State (9-2, 6-1)
2. Wisconsin (9-2, 5-2)

Penn State needs: A win over Wisconsin on Saturday
Wisconsin needs: A win over Penn State on Saturday

Pick: Wisconsin over Michigan State

ACC
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Virginia Tech

ATLANTIC CONTENDERS
1. Clemson (9-2, 6-2 conference) - CLINCHED 

COASTAL CONTENDERS
1. Virginia Tech (10-1, 6-1)
2. Virginia (8-3, 5-2)

Virginia Tech needs: A win over Virginia on Saturday
Virginia needs: A win over Virginia Tech on Saturday

Pick: Virginia Tech over Clemson

BIG EAST
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Connecticut (Fiesta Bowl berth)/West Virginia/Pittsburgh

CONTENDERS
1. Louisville (6-5, 4-2 conference)
1. Rutgers (8-3, 4-2)
3. Cincinnati (7-3, 3-2)
3. West Virginia (7-3, 3-2)
3. Pittsburgh (5-5, 3-2)

Week 13 Key Games: Louisville at South Florida (Friday), Pittsburgh at West Virginia (Friday), Rutgers at Connecticut, Cincinnati at Syracuse
Week 14 Key Games: West Virginia at South Florida (Thursday), Syracuse at Pittsburgh, Connecticut at Cincinnati

Louisville needs: Win at South Florida, at least one loss for Cincinnati and Pittsburgh
Rutgers needs: Win at Connecticut, at least one loss for Louisville and West Virginia
Cincinnati needs: Wins against Syracuse and Connecticut, at least one loss for Rutgers and West Virginia
West Virginia needs: Wins against Pittsburgh and South Florida, South Florida defeating Louisville
Pittsburgh needs: Wins against West Virginia and Syracuse, at least one loss for Cincinnati and Rutgers

Pick: Louisville

CONFERENCE USA
Champion Destination: Liberty Bowl
2010 Champion: UCF

EAST CONTENDERS
1. Southern Miss (9-2, 5-2 conference)
2. Marshall (5-6, 4-3)

WEST CONTENDERS
1. Houston (11-0, 7-0)
1. Tulsa (8-3, 7-0)

Southern Miss needs: A win over Memphis OR a Marshall loss to ECU clinches the East
Marshall needs: A win over ECU and a Southern Miss loss to Memphis.

Houston needs: A win over Tulsa on Friday
Tulsa needs: A win over Houston on Friday

Pick: Houston over Southern Miss

MOUNTAIN WEST CONFERENCE
Champion Destination: Maaco Bowl
2010 Champion: TCU

CONTENDERS
1. TCU (9-2, 6-0 conference)
2. Boise State (9-1, 4-1)
2. Wyoming (7-3, 4-1)

TCU needs: Having clinched a share of the title, the Horned Frogs can win outright with a victory over UNLV Dec. 3.
Boise State needs: Wins over Wyoming and New Mexico, and a TCU loss to earn a share of the conference championship.
Wyoming needs: Wins over Boise State and Colorado State, and a TCU loss to earn a share of the conference championship.

Pick: TCU

WAC
Champion Destination: Poinsettia/Hawaii/Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
2010 Champion: Nevada/Boise State/Hawaii

CONTENDERS
1. Louisiana Tech (7-4, 5-1 conference)
2. Nevada (6-4, 4-1)

Louisiana Tech needs: A win against New Mexico State earns a share of the WAC title, one Nevada loss will make them outright champions. Louisiana Tech earned the head-to-head advantage with a 24-20 win over Nevada.
Nevada needs: Wins against Utah State and Idaho earn the Wolf Pack a share of the WAC title. Nevada needs to win out and a Louisiana Tech loss to be outright champions.

Pick: Louisiana Tech

MAC
Champion Destination: GoDaddy.com Bowl
2010 Champion: Miami (OH)

EAST CONTENDERS
1. Ohio (8-3, 5-2 conference) - CLINCHED

WEST CONTENDERS
1. Northern Illinois (8-3, 6-1)
1. Toledo (7-4, 6-1)

Northern Illinois needs: A win over Eastern Michigan on Friday clinches the West Division thanks to the head-to-head advantage over Toledo.
Toledo needs: A victory over Ball State on Friday and a Northern Illinois loss to win the division and earn a spot in the conference championship game.

Pick: Northern Illinois over Ohio

SUN BELT
Champion Destination: GoDaddy.com Bowl + New Orleans Bowl
2010 Champion: FIU/Troy

CONTENDERS
1. Arkansas State (9-2, 7-0 conference) - CLINCHED

BOWL-BOUND: Arkansas State accepted an invitation to the GoDaddy.com Bowl in Mobile, Ala. after their 45-19 win over Middle Tennessee on Saturday. After the announcement, the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl offered an invitation to Louisiana-Lafayette. It will be the first time in the bowl's 11-year history a team from Louisiana will be participating.

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Posted on: November 21, 2011 12:42 pm
Edited on: November 21, 2011 1:17 pm
 

Surveying the Field: Reviewing Week 12



Posted by Bryan Fischer


On Saturday it stops.

The bylaws, the scandals, the arrests, the arguing, the issues - the scars of college football -  it's all gone and it becomes just a game. When the whistle is blown there are no rankings or underdogs, just a game between the lines, two teams with 11 on either side.

Saturday seemed like a perfect reminder of that. Looking at the schedule earlier in the week, the lack of marquee match ups - just three involving two ranked teams - made it seem more like a bye week than Week 12.

As the season made - to borrow a metaphor from another sport - its final turn and moved onto the home stretch, it was looking like we were indeed destined for a week off of drama. Wisconsin beat Illinois, Michigan State rolled Indiana, Michigan put on a clinic against Nebraska, Georgia had a close but ugly win over Kentucky, Houston beat SMU handily, Arkansas steamrolled Mississippi State and shockingly N.C. State had beaten Clemson before halftime.

Then consider what happened as night fell and some of the late games got interesting, with plays happening just about every minute. A quick sampling in case you missed the drama:

- Matt Barkley hit Randall Telfer for a touchdown to put USC up 38-14 over Oregon.
- De'Anthony Thomas returned a kickoff 96 yards, and showed why he's one of the fastest players in college football.
- Eric Gordon picked off Jordan Rodgers and returned it 90 yards for a touchdown to seal a 27-21 Tennessee win over Vanderbilt. Only there was mass confusion thanks to the officials.
-  A Robert Griffin III pass is deflected right into the arms of a streaking Kendall Wright for a 87-yard touchdown to tie Oklahoma 24-24.
- Kenjon Barner caps a 75-yard drive to pull Oregon to within 38-27 with over 12 minutes left in the game.
- Michael Rocco caps off a 75-yard drive in less than a minute to give Virginia a 14-13 lead over Florida State.
- Zach Maynard tosses a perfectly thrown pass to Keenan Allen to take a 10-7 lead over Stanford.
- Baylor retakes the lead 31-24 after a 10 play, 85-yard drive after another RGIII touchdown pass.
- Texas' drive stalls and the Longhorns settle for a field goal to trail 17-13.
- Barkley is picked off by the Ducks defense then score a touchdown. Two-point conversion is good (barely) and they cut USC's lead to 38-35 with 7:05 left.
- A crazy play involving Florida State's Bert Reed happens. He was ruled to have caught a ball but inbounds, running out the clock. A five minute replay takes place.
- Landry Jones throws an interception, setting up a Terrence Ganaway touchdown as Baylor goes up 38-24 on Oklahoma.
- Case McCoy is sacked on 4th-and-10 at midfield, Kansas State takes over but has to punt.
- The replay overturns Reed's play, ruling it incomplete. FSU sets up for a 48-yard field goal but Virginia players bark out signals drawing a flag. Shorter kick misses anyway, giving the Cavilers their first ever victory at Doak Walker as Mike London screams at his team to get to the locker room.
- The Trojans are in the red zone when Barkley and Marc Tyler fumble an exchange, leading to Oregon getting the ball back.
- Oklahoma can't convert a 4th-and-14, Baylor gets the ball back.
- Kansas State barely holds on but beats Texas 17-13.
- Cal hits a short field goal to extend their lead to 13-7 in the Big Game against Stanford.
- The Ducks march right down the field but Chip Kelly fails to use his timeouts leaving a 42-yard field goal to tie the game with five seconds left. It's no good allowing USC to escape with a 38-35 upset to further shake up the BCS.
- The Belldozer formation (with backup quarterback Blake Bell) scores a TD to make it 38-31 Sooners with six minutes left.
- Oklahoma gets the ball back then Bell scores his 4th touchdown of the night and the Sooners look like they're going for two. They don't but tie the game up at 38 with 51 seconds on the clock.
- RGIII finds Terrence Williams in the back of the end zone for a perfect 34-yard touchdown pass with eight seconds left to give Baylor their first ever win against Oklahoma 45-38.
- Andrew Luck leads two scoring drives coming out of halftime to take a 28-13 lead over Cal.
- The Bears come right back down the field and score a touchdown, connecting on a two-point conversion to pull to within 28-21 in the 4th quarter.
- Stanford takes over seven minutes off the clock with a drive that ends in a field goal and 31-21 lead.
- Cal makes things interesting with a touchdown to pull to within 31-28 with 14 seconds left.
- Onside kick recovered, Stanford beats Cal 31-28 to win the Big Game.

That. Was. Fun.

We probably should have guessed something was up this week. Northern Illinois kicked a field goal with eight seconds left to beat Ball State 41-38 on Tuesday, rolling up 710 yards of offense in a little midweek MACtion. The story was much the same the next night as Ohio made a chip shot field goal as the gun went off to beat Bowling Green 29-28. Also on Wednesday, Western Michigan held on to beat Miami (Ohio) with both starting quarterbacks topping the 400 yard passing mark. Thursday produced a huge - relatively - CUSA upset as a terrible UAB team upset #22 Southern Miss to beat a ranked team for just the second time in school history.

North Carolina, with an interim head coach and not much to play for, gave Virginia Tech a fight with two touchdowns in the 4th quarter before the Hokies decided to pay attention on defense. It was an off night for David Wilson, who never could get going, but a solid one for quarterback Logan Thomas. He tossed two touchdowns and ran for a third to provide most of the Hokies scoring to setup a showdown next week with rival Virginia for a trip to the ACC championship. The late comeback from UNC should have been a warning that no one was safe, home or road, regardless of the conditions.

Oklahoma State rolled into Ames, Iowa as 27-point favorites but holding a heavy heart just a day after a plane crash killed the women's basketball coach and three others. It was an unspeakable tragedy for a school that had already suffered a similar one a decade before. Friday was supposed to be about the second-ranked Cowboys giving their fans something - anything - to cheer about.

But it's a game between the lines and though Iowa State came into the match up 2-4 in Big 12 play and winless in 58 tries against teams ranked sixth or better, head coach Paul Rhoads knows a thing or two about upsets. He had pulled off at least one shocker each year he was in charge of the Cyclones and was defensive coordinator of a lowly 4-7 Pittsburgh team four years ago that helped cause BCS chaos with an upset of then-No. 2 West Virginia. He threw a similar wrench into the Cowboys' plans in large part by shutting down the ground game and forcing five turnovers. Brandon Weeden put some big numbers - 42-of-58, a quiet 476 yards and three touchdowns - but threw three interceptions, his last in the second overtime to lose the game.

"We got a group of young men that put their hard hats on every day and just continue to go to work," Rhoads said. "I could not be prouder of the effort they put out tonight."

The field storming after the upset was well deserved, with Rhoads even getting hit by a fan who spilled his drink on the emotional head coach at midfield. The Iowa native took over the program from Gene Chizik after serving as Auburn's defensive coordinator the season before Chizik headed to the plains. Ironically, his upset sent cheers up in Tuscaloosa because no program stood to benefit more from the loss than Alabama.

It was the first of many on a topsy-turvy week that saw the #2, #4, #5, #7, #17, #22 and #23 in the BCS suffer a loss. As you can tell from the boom-boom nature of the plays listed above, the drama and action seemed to culminate in another perfect weekend in college football. Fitting, perhaps, that on the sport's supposed week off, it gave us the most drama-filled few days of the year.

As the Big Game was wrapping up late on the West Coast, I was trying to think of another time there was so much craziness, so much excitement, packed into just a few hours. It thought about the NCAA tournament but MLB's final day this year immediately popped into my mind right after. The country was glued to the television as pitch after pitch carried more meaning than the last. Four games determined two wild cards (and the eventual World Series winner) and three of them were tied. Three blown saves and two incredible walk-off wins had produced one of baseball's finest nights.

This weekend, and late Saturday in particular, was not quite what that Wednesday in late September was. That night for baseball does contrast however, and serve as a reminder of how great a regular season can be with a playoff still to come. The BCS proponents out there had no problem coming out and saying the system enhanced the upsets because they somehow mean more. As baseball showed us, even after 162 games and plenty more to play, nothing takes away from the drama. We're still going to watch Baylor try and beat Oklahoma for the first time ever with RGIII taking snaps. People will still tune in to see USC make an emphatic statement to the country that their time out of the spotlight is over.

It does however make the losses that much more painful. Boise State has lost three games in three years by five points thanks to walk-on kickers missing field goals. They never get a shot at playing for the national title. Oklahoma just hopes they can beat their rival and get to the same old exhibition (the Fiesta Bowl) they're used to playing in.

'Every week is a playoff'  is the line you'll see often in BCS literature. If that's the case then, Alabama would not be sitting at No. 2 in the country and set to play LSU - again - for the national title. They lost their playoff game at Bryant-Denny in the Field Goal Festival of the Century. Talk of another rematch involving Oregon was put to bed thanks to the conquering Trojans but had they won, they should have taken note that no, they can't be playing in New Orleans after losing a game earlier in the season.

Now we are left with a BCS beauty pageant. Boise could be a top five team at the end of the year but will likely play right before Christmas. Stanford might be passed over for Michigan despite the Cardinal being in the top 10 all season. The SEC is strong at the top but weak all over - as evidenced by FCS Southern Conference teams having a combined 52-34 lead on SEC teams at one point Saturday. Alas, this is the system we have.

The modeling still isn't over with a few more weeks left in the season and that should provide clarity on the situation, especially with Arkansas traveling to Baton Rouge and Alabama playing the Iron Bowl at Auburn. There's still Bedlam and championship games. This show will go on.

But a Saturday that didn't shape up to be much ended up being quite a bit thanks to what happened on the field. It's why we all love college football and why we put up with six days of arguing and rankings. 60 minutes between the lines never looked so good in week 12.

Stat of the week

USC is the first loss Chip Kelly has suffered as head coach when the opposing team has just one week to prepare. It was also his first ever home loss and the Trojans win snapped a 19 game conference winning streak and the longest home winning streak in the country.

Stats of the week

- The SEC has 9 offenses ranked 75th or worse in the country but four of the top five defenses. The former is responsible for the latter more than the other way around.

- Wisconsin had a 12 play, 27 yard drive against Illinois that took 7:11 off the clock before Montee Ball scored a touchdown. At that point, Texas A&M had scored 44 points in 8:24 against Kansas.

- FCS Georgia Southern scored 21 points and ran for 302 yards on Alabama's defense, which led the country in just about every major defensive category. Dominique Swope had an 82-yard touchdown and finished with 18 carries for 153 yards (8.5 yd ave.). In the process, Swope became just the fifth back to rush for over 100 yards against Nick Saban in his five seasons in Tuscaloosa. Alabama's scoring defense went from 7.1 points per game to 8.36 ppg afterward and the rush defense jumped from 51.9 ypg to 74.64 just from the one game.

- This is the first time since Bo Pelini's first year that Nebraska has allowed more than 40 points in a game twice in a season.

- Oregon's 24-point deficit they faced against USC was the biggest they faced since October 4, 2008, also against the Trojans.

- Via the AP, before Miami did it yesterday, no FBS team had scored less than seven points and won a road game since Auburn topped Mississippi State 3-2 in 2008.

- Five starts for David Ash, six interceptions. Ouch.

- LSU, Alabama and Arkansas are 1, 2, 3 in the AP Poll. The only other time one conference has done that in the poll era is Nebraska, Oklahoma and Colorado of the Big 8 in 1971.

- Kansas has - by far - the worst defense in the country. It is dead last in three major categories and is giving up 45.55 points per game and 531.45 yards per game. A sampling of the worst defenses since 2001 for comparison:

2001: Idaho 45 ppg, (Worst BCS defense: Duke 44.6 ppg)
2002: Eastern Michigan 47.2 ppg, (Kansas 42.3 ppg)
2003: Mississippi State 39.3 ppg
2004: San Jose State 42.6 ppg, (Baylor 36.9 ppg)
2005: Temple 45.3 ppg, (Illinois 39.5 ppg)
2006: Louisiana Tech 41.7 ppg, (Duke 33.8 ppg)
2007: North Texas 45.1 ppg, (Nebraska 37.9 ppg)
2008: North Texas 47.58 ppg, (Washington State 43.85 ppg)
2009: Rice 43.08 ppg, (Washington State 38.5 ppg)
2010: New Mexico 44.33 ppg, (Washington State 35.83 ppg)

Tweet of the week

"Down 22-7 in Q1, Gators DE Sharrif Floyd told teammates, "Listen it's Furman. No disrespect but it's Furman."

- Via Jason Lieser, Palm Beach Post.

Fisch's Finest

1. LSU

2. Alabama

3. Oklahoma State

4. Arkansas

5. Stanford

6. Boise State

7. Houston

8. USC

9. Oregon

10. Virginia Tech

Where we'll be this week

Dennis Dodd will be at two games this week, starting with the big showdown on CBS between Arkansas and LSU on Friday and Missouri-Kansas on Saturday, the final game in the second-longest rivalry west of the Mississippi. I will cover two games as well, with the final Texas-Texas A&M game on Thursday (Thanksgiving) and end with the crosstown showdown between USC and UCLA. Brett McMurphy will be at the Iron Bowl as Alabama looks for revenge on Auburn and to keep their name in the national title race.

Leaning this way

Penn State at Wisconsin

This is for a trip to the Big Ten title game and there's no doubt that commissioner Jim Delany hopes Wisconsin can win and hopefully cover the two touchdowns+ spread. Penn State's offense showed signs of life in the first half against Ohio State but managed to throttle back down to nothing in the second half against an ok defense. Montee Ball and Russell Wilson have this thing over early though and the Nittany Lions can't claw their way back.

Alabama at Auburn

The Tide are ranked second in the country, the Tigers are unranked. Normally that doesn't matter when these two get together but that's just one indication of how good/bad these teams are. Neither team looked impressive against FCS foes so you wonder if they were saving a few things for this game. Still, hard to see an upset when Alabama is in the top three in the conference in every major category.

Arkansas at LSU

BCS chaos can rain supreme if the Razorbacks are able to go into Baton Rouge and pull off the upset. They will certainly be the best passing offense LSU's fantastic secondary has faced but the key will come down to protecting Tyler Wilson. If LSU turns it over a few times there is certainly a chance at a loss but it all seems unlikely for 'The Hat' to lose this close to taking a trip to Atlanta.



Posted on: November 15, 2011 1:23 pm
Edited on: November 15, 2011 2:20 pm
 

Conference Title Race Reset, Week 12

Posted by Chip Patterson

With the regular season winding down, we'll check in on the conference title races in all 11 FBS conferences. The contenders, key games, and some early predictions on who will claim the league's automatic bowl berth.

SEC
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Auburn

EAST CONTENDERS
1. Georgia (8-2, 6-1 conference)
2. South Carolina (8-2, 6-2)

WEST CONTENDERS
1. LSU (10-0, 6-0)
2. Alabama (9-1, 6-1)
3. Arkansas (9-1, 5-1)

Week 12 Key Games: Kentucky at Georgia; Mississippi State at Arkansas; LSU at Ole Miss

Pick: LSU. The SEC West contenders all have games that should be easy wins this weekend before setting up the dramatic finale to the division race. Alabama needs to travel to Auburn for the Iron Bowl and Arkansas visits LSU in Baton Rouge for an eventful Thanksgiving weekend in the SEC. However, the East will be wrapped up by Saturday afternoon. If Georgia beats Kentucky at home, the Bulldogs win the East outright and punch their ticket to Atlanta for the SEC title game. If the Wildcats pull the upset, South Carolina wins the title game bid thanks to the 45-42 victory in Athens earlier this season.

BIG 12
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Oklahoma

CONTENDERS
1. Oklahoma State (10-0, 7-0 conference)
2. Oklahoma (8-1, 5-1)

Week 12 Key Games: Oklahoma State at Iowa State (Friday); Oklahoma at Baylor

Pick: Oklahoma State. With Oklahoma State's dismantling of Texas Tech, Kansas State mathematically falls out of the running for the Big 12 title. Now everything is set up for Bedlam, with the Cowboys having a slight advantage with the extra preparation time. After Iowa State on Friday, Mike Gundy will have 15 days to get ready for Oklahoma's visit to Stillwater. In that time, the Sooners face Baylor on the road and Iowa State at home.

PAC-12
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game (Rose Bowl or National Championship)
2010 Champion: Oregon

NORTH CONTENDERS
1. Oregon (9-1, 7-0 conference)
2. Stanford (9-1, 7-1)

SOUTH CONTENDERS
1. Arizona State (6-4, 4-3)
1. UCLA (5-5, 4-3)
3. Utah (6-4, 3-4)

Key Week 12 Games: Utah at Washington State; Colorado at UCLA; USC at Oregon; California at Stanford

Pick: Oregon. With their impressive road win against Stanford, the Ducks jumped into the driver's seat of the Pac-12 North and also made themselves players in the national title discussion. Their argument as the nation's best one loss team is strong, but they will be tested again with a visit from a hot USC team. An upset at the hands of the Trojans would make the North interesting, but the way Oregon has been leaving opponents in the dust I think they take care of business down the stretch. The South is just a mess, with Arizona State and UCLA losing winnable games in Week 11 and suddenly making Utah a player in the race. The Bruins have the head-to-head on the Sun Devils, but Arizona State has more favorable matchups left on the schedule and a victory against Utah. Then again, no one in that division (at least no one eligible for the postseason) has been predictable.

BIG TEN
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game (Rose Bowl or National Championship)
2010 Champion: Wisconsin (Rose Bowl berth)/Michigan State/Ohio State

LEGENDS CONTENDERS
1. Michigan State (8-2, 5-1 conference)
2. Michigan (8-2, 4-2)
2. Nebraska (8-2, 4-2)
4. Iowa (6-4, 3-3)

LEADERS CONTENDERS
1. Penn State (8-2, 5-1)
2. Wisconsin (8-2, 4-2)
3. Ohio State (6-4, 3-3)
3. Purdue (5-5, 3-3)

Key Week 12 Games: Indiana at Michigan State; Nebraska at Michigan; Wisconsin at Illinois; Iowa at Purdue; Penn State at Ohio State

Pick: Wisconsin. Even without taking off-field situations into consideration, Penn State desperately needed to win against Nebraska on Saturday for the Big Ten title race. The loss brought the rest of the division one game closer in the standings, and now interim head coach Tom Bradley must lead them on the road against Ohio State and Wisconsin to wrap up a tumultuous November for the program. Ohio State did themselves no favors in the overtime loss to Purdue, which negated the one game they picked up on Wisconsin with 33-29 win in Week 9. If the Badgers can avoid an upset against the Fighting Zooks this week, it will set up a division title game with Penn State in Camp Randall. Everything considered, I like the Badgers' chances in that matchup. The Spartans control their own destiny in the Leaders Division, with a one game lead and just Indiana and Northwestern left on the schedule. The loser of Nebraska - Michigan this weekend falls out of the title hunt, while the winner hopes for a Spartan slip-up. The Cornhuskers are in the best position to overtake Michigan State, but the schedule is not favorable with Michigan and Iowa left.

ACC
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game - Orange Bowl 
2010 Champion: Virginia Tech

ATLANTIC CONTENDERS
1. Clemson (9-1, 6-1 conference) - CLINCHED DIVISION

COASTAL CONTENDERS
1. Virginia Tech (9-1, 5-1)
2. Virginia (7-3, 4-2)

Key Week 11 Games: North Carolina at Virginia Tech (Thursday); Virginia at Florida State

Pick: Clemson. The Tigers nearly avoided letting the Atlantic Division slip away with the 31-28 come-from-behind victory over Wake Forest at home on Saturday. The Coastal Division race narrowed last weekend as well, with Virginia Tech knocking Georgia Tech from competition in the Thursday night contest in Atlanta. The Hokies return to action on Thursday against a reeling North Carolina team. Virginia needs a win over Florida State or a Virginia Tech loss to set up a season finale meeting with the Hokies for the Coastal Division title. A Cavaliers' loss to the Seminoles paired with a Virginia Tech win on Thursday will clinch Frank Beamer's fifth division title in seven years.

BIG EAST
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Connecticut (Fiesta Bowl berth)/West Virginia/Pittsburgh

CONTENDERS
1. Cincinnati (7-2, 3-1 conference) 
2. Rutgers (7-3, 3-2)
2. West Virginia (7-3, 3-2)
2. Louisville (5-5, 3-2)
2. Pittsburgh (5-5, 3-2)
6. Connecticut (4-5, 2-2)

Key Week 12 Games: Louisville at Connecticut; Cincinnati at Rutgers

Pick: West Virginia. Cincinnati and Louisville needed wins in Week 11 to create some distance in the always-muddled Big East title race. Instead both teams lost and now we are left with this six-team dash towards the finish line. The Bearcats' loss was not just in the standings on Saturday, but starting quarterback Zach Collaros has been ruled out for the season with a broken ankle. Victories over Cincinnati and Rutgers put West Virginia in the best position heading down the stretch, but the Mountaineers cannot afford another loss with the Backyard Brawl in two weeks and at USF in the season finale. The conference is rooting for Rutgers to knock off the banged up Bearcats and even the playing field with two-loss teams. The Scarlet Knights just have Connecticut left on the schedule, but will need some help to overtake West Virginia. Louisville has a favorable schedule with Connecticut and USF, but both games are on the road and they need Cincinnati to lose twice. Pittsburgh and Connecticut are still technically in the race, though there is little evidence in their resume that they are prepared to close out against the competition.

CONFERENCE USA
Champion Destination: Liberty Bowl
2010 Champion: UCF

EAST CONTENDERS
1. Southern Miss (9-1, 5-1 conference) 
2. Marshall (4-5, 3-2) 

WEST CONTENDERS
1. Houston (10-0, 6-0) 
1. Tulsa (7-3, 6-0) 

Key Week 12 Games: Southern Miss at UAB (Thursday); SMU at Houston; Marshall at Memphis; Tulsa at UTEP

Pick: Houston. East Carolina fell from contention with a loss in Week 11, and Southern Miss avoided dropping a costly game to UCF with a gritty 30-29 victory. The Golden Eagles have a favorable slate left, with UAB and Memphis as the obstacles left in the way of a Conference USA title game bid. The West Division continues to set up for a potentially scoreboard friendly regular season finale between Houston and Tulsa. I don't expect the Cougars to lose focus at this point, particularly now that a BCS bowl game bid has become a possibility for Case Keenum and Co..

MOUNTAIN WEST CONFERENCE
Champion Destination: Maaco Bowl
2010 Champion: TCU

CONTENDERS
1. TCU (8-2, 5-0 conference) 
2. Boise State (8-1, 3-1) 
2. Wyoming (6-3, 3-1) 

Key Week 12 Games: New Mexico at Wyoming; Colorado State at TCU; Boise State at San Diego State

Pick: TCU. For the second year in a row, Boise State is knocked from their perch in the national rankings and conference standings with a missed field goal in the final moments of a close loss. The only way TCU loses the Mountain West conference at this point is falling to Colorado State (3-6) and UNLV (2-7). If sophomore quarterback Casey Pachall is 50% as productive as he was against the Broncos, the Horned Frogs should have the conference locked up in the coming weeks. Still, Wyoming and Boise State can win out to keep alive. But I wouldn't bet on TCU slipping down the stretch.

WAC
Champion Destination: Poinsettia/Hawaii/Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
2010 Champion: Nevada/Boise State/Hawaii

CONTENDERS
1. Nevada (6-3, 4-0 conference) 
2. Louisiana Tech (6-4, 4-1) 
3. Utah State (4-5, 2-2)

Key Week 12 Games: Louisiana Tech at Nevada; Utah State at Idaho

Pick: Nevada. HUGE game in the WAC this weekend as Louisiana Tech squares off against conference-leading Nevada. The winner takes the driver's seat in the conference title race, with the Wolf Pack nearly locking up the championship if they can get the win at home. Utah State still technically has a shot to finish on top, but the extent of help they would need to jump both teams seems unrealistic. Louisiana Tech is on a five game winning streak after starting 1-4, but cannot afford to drop another game if they hope to steal the WAC from Nevada.

MAC
Champion Destination: GoDaddy.com Bowl
2010 Champion: Miami (OH)

EAST CONTENDERS
1. Ohio (7-3, 4-2 conference)
2. Temple (6-4, 4-3)
3. Kent State (4-6, 3-3)
3. Miami (OH) (4-6, 3-3)

WEST CONTENDERS
1. Northern Illinois (7-3, 5-1)
1. Toledo (6-4, 5-1)
3 Ball State (6-4, 4-2)

Key Week 12 Games: Ball State at Northern Illinois (Tuesday); Ohio at Bowling Green (Wednesday); Western Michigan at Miami (OH) (Wednesday); Toledo at Central Michigan (Friday); Eastern Michigan at Kent State

Pick: Northern Illinois. The Huskies continue to own the inside track in the West Division thanks to their 63-60 victory over Toledo earlier this month, but Ball State can shake things up with a win Tuesday night. Toledo needs to win out in-conference and get help from Ball State or Eastern Michigan to jump into first place, while the Cardinals will get an opportunity to knock off both frontrunners in their next contests. The East is even more confusing, with three three-loss teams hoping Ohio slips up down the stretch against Bowling Green and/or Miami (OH). Next week will be the deciding weekend for the MAC East, with Ohio facing Miami and Kent State taking on Temple. Regardless of who finishes on top, taking down Northern Illinois or Toledo in the MAC title game will be no easy task.

SUN BELT
Champion Destination: New Orleans Bowl
2010 Champion: FIU/Troy

CONTENDERS
1. Arkansas State (8-2, 6-0 conference) 
2. Western Kentucky (5-5, 5-1) 

Key Week 12 Games: Arkansas State at Middle Tennessee; Western Kentucky at North Texas

Pick: Arkansas State. Arkansas State continued their surprising tear through the Sun Belt with a much-needed victory over Louisiana-Lafayette in Week 11. The loss eliminated the Ragin' Cajuns from title contention, and now Arkansas State needs just one more conference win to clinch the title. Western Kentucky remains in contention, but need the Red Wolves to lose their final two games to overtake them in the standings.

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Posted on: November 8, 2011 11:35 am
 

Conference Title Race Reset, Week 11

Posted by Chip Patterson

With the regular season winding down, we'll check in on the conference title races in all 11 FBS conferences. The contenders, key games, and some early predictions on who will claim the league's automatic bowl berth.

SEC
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Auburn

EAST CONTENDERS
1. Georgia (5-1)(7-2)
2. South Carolina (5-2)(7-2)

WEST CONTENDERS
1. LSU (6-0)(9-0)
2. Alabama (5-1)(8-1)
3. Arkansas (4-1)(8-1)

Week 11 Key Games: Florida at South Carolina; Tennessee at Arkansas; Auburn at Georgia

Pick: LSU. The Tigers take control of the SEC with their 9-6 overtime victory in the "Game of the Century" (tag now debatable), but the home stretch won't be a cakewalk. Arkansas will get their shot at the No. 1 team in the nation in the regular season finale, causing a mind-numbing three-way tie for the division title. If Alabama, LSU, and Arkansas all finish with one conference loss (against each other), the SEC title game representative will be decided by BCS standings. For now I'm liking LSU's chances against Arkansas and Georgian in the title game, assuming the Bulldogs can lock up the East down the stretch.

BIG 12
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Oklahoma

CONTENDERS
1. Oklahoma State (6-0)(9-0)
2. Oklahoma (5-1)(8-1)
3. Kansas State (4-2)(7-2)
4. Texas (3-2)(6-2)

Week 11 Key Games: Texas at Missouri; Oklahoma State at Texas Tech; Texas A&M at Kansas State

Pick: Oklahoma State. Week 11 serves as a "Separation Saturday" of sorts in the Big 12, with Kansas State and Texas facing elimination from title contention. If the Cowboys can avoid the Texas Tech trap that caught their Bedlam brethren, they will be just an Iowa State win away from a possible unofficial Big 12 title game against the Sooners. Oklahoma still has to beat Baylor on the road, and does not get the advantage of a week off prior to the big game in December. I like Mike Gundy to have his team focused down the stretch, and outscoring anyone they face.

PAC-12
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game (Rose Bowl or National Championship)
2010 Champion: Oregon

NORTH CONTENDERS
1. Stanford (7-0)(9-0)
2. Oregon (6-0)(8-1)

SOUTH CONTENDERS
1. Arizona State (4-2)(7-2)
1. UCLA (4-2)(5-4)

Key Week 11 Games: Oregon at Stanford; UCLA at Utah; Arizona State at Washington State

Pick: Stanford. UCLA's victory over Arizona State has made the Pac-12 South suddenly a heated race in November. Without owning the head-to-head against UCLA, the Sun Devils must remain perfect down the stretch and hope the Bruins falter to earn that bid to the Pac-12 title game. Arguably the biggest conference matchup of the season will be Stanford's showdown with Oregon at home on Saturday night. Knocking off the Ducks will give create enough separation to feel good about winning the Pac-12 North. If the banged-up Cardinal can get it done against Oregon, I like their chances against California the following week.

BIG TEN
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game (Rose Bowl or National Championship)
2010 Champion: Wisconsin (Rose Bowl berth)/Michigan State/Ohio State

LEGENDS CONTENDERS
1. Michigan State (4-1)(7-2)
2. Michigan (3-2)(7-2)
2. Nebraska (3-2)(7-2)
2. Iowa (3-2)(6-3)

LEADERS CONTENDERS
1. Penn State (5-0)(8-1)
2. Ohio State (3-2)(6-3)
2. Wisconsin (3-2)(7-2)

Key Week 11 Games: Nebraska at Penn State; Michigan State at Iowa; Michigan at Illinois; Wisconsin at Minnesota; Ohio State at Purdue

Pick: Michigan State. Week 10's results have left the Big Ten title race in a chaotic state. The good news for a Big Ten fan is that now almost every game on the schedule has a potential conference championship implication. Interestingly enough, one of the team with the most control in the jumbled Legends race is Iowa. The Hawkeyes defeated Michigan on Saturday, and face both Michigan State and Nebraska in the final three weeks of the season. Michigan State, with a game up on Iowa, can also lock up the division by winning out and faces an easier slate. Penn State has the toughest road in the Leaders division, and the off-field issues will be impossible for those around the program to ignore. Owning the head-to-head against Wisconsin, Ohio State is actually in the best position to leap ahead of Penn State should they fall along the way.

ACC
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Virginia Tech

ATLANTIC CONTENDERS
1. Clemson (5-1)(8-1)
2. Wake Forest (4-2)(5-4)
2. Florida State (4-2)(6-3)

COASTAL CONTENDERS
1. Virginia Tech (4-1)(8-1)
2. Georgia Tech (4-2)(7-2)
3. Virginia (3-2)(6-3)

Key Week 11 Games: Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech; Wake Forest at Clemson; Duke at Virginia; Miami at Florida State

Pick: Clemson. Week 11 provides the ACC with some huge matchups with conference title implications. Clemson can lock up the ACC Atlantic Division with a win over Wake Forest, and the winner of Thursday night's showdown between Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech moves into the driver's seat for the ACC Coastal. I like the Tigers to take care of business with a week off following their loss to the Yellow Jackets, and Dabo Swinney's team will play to a Tiger-friendly crowd at the title game in Charlotte.

BIG EAST
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Connecticut (Fiesta Bowl berth)/West Virginia/Pittsburgh

CONTENDERS
1. Cincinnati (3-0)(7-1)
2. Louisville (3-1)(5-4)
3. Rutgers (3-2)(6-3)
4. West Virginia (2-2)(6-3)
4. Pittsburgh (2-2)(4-5)
4. Connecticut (2-2)(4-5)
2. Pittsburgh (2-1)(4-4)

Key Week 11 Games: West Virginia at Cincinnati; Pittsburgh at Louisville

Pick: Cincinnati. The Bearcats' surprising 7-1 campaign runs into arguably the biggest road block on Saturday, facing a steaming-mad West Virginia team in Paul Brown Stadium. A loss knocks the Mountaineers from title contention, and Dana Holgorsen will be looking for improvements on all sides of the ball after the loss to Louisville. The Cardinals can also knock out a contender this weekend with a win over Pittsburgh.

CONFERENCE USA
Champion Destination: Liberty Bowl
2010 Champion: UCF

EAST CONTENDERS
1. Southern Miss (4-1)(8-1)
2. East Carolina (3-2)(4-5)
2. Marshall (3-2)(4-5)

WEST CONTENDERS
1. Houston (5-0)(9-0)
1. Tulsa (5-0)(6-3)
3. SMU (4-2)(6-3)

Key Week 11 Games: Houston at Tulane; Marshall at Tulsa; UCF at Southern Miss; East Carolina at UTEP

Pick: Houston. No one in the league has been as impressive as Houston this season, but Tulsa's five-game win streak is nothing to ignore. The two teams are on a collision course to meet in Houston on Thanksgiving Friday, likely for the West Division crown. UCF gave the Golden Hurricanes a challenge in Week 10, and Southern Miss should be on alert after picking up a game on East Carolina.

MOUNTAIN WEST CONFERENCE
Champion Destination: Maaco Bowl
2010 Champion: TCU

CONTENDERS
1. TCU (4-0)(7-2)
2. Boise State (3-0)(8-0)
2. Wyoming (2-1)(5-3)

Key Week 11 Games: TCU at Boise State; Wyoming at Air Force

Pick: Boise State. My question is not if Boise State will beat TCU this weekend on the Smurf Turf, but how they beat TCU. The Broncos have once again found themselves in a position where they might be on the outside looking in of the BCS title game, and TCU presents their last quality opponent on the schedule. It would favor the Broncos to end this game early, and keep the foot on the accelerator to draw the attention of as many human voters as possible to help their BCS chances.

WAC
Champion Destination: Poinsettia/Hawaii/Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
2010 Champion: Nevada/Boise State/Hawaii

CONTENDERS
1. Nevada (3-0)(5-3)
2. Louisiana Tech (4-1)(5-4)
2. Hawaii (3-2)(5-4)
4. Fresno State (2-2)(3-6)

Key Week 11 Games: Hawaii at Nevada; Fresno State at New Mexico State

Pick: Nevada. Louisiana Tech takes a break from conference play to face Ole Miss while Nevada gets a shot to eliminate Hawaii from title contention. I like the Wolf Pack coming in from a week off to knock the Warriors off at home, setting up a huge WAC showdown with Louisiana Tech in Week 12. Nevada plays to a favorable schedule down the stretch, and I like their chances to keep a hold on the top spot in the conference.

MAC
Champion Destination: GoDaddy.com Bowl
2010 Champion: Miami (OH)

EAST CONTENDERS
1. Ohio (3-2)(6-3)
1. MIami (OH) (3-2)(4-5)
3. Temple (3-3)(5-4)

WEST CONTENDERS
1. Northern Illinois (4-1)(6-3)
1. Toledo (4-1)(5-4)
3 Ball State (4-2)(6-4)

Key Week 11 Games: Northern Illinois at Bowling Green; Western Michigan at Toledo; Miami (OH) at Temple; Ohio at Central Michigan

Pick: Northern Illinois. While NBA fans are complaining about missed games, the MAC is seizing the opportunity to show off their mid-week fireworks. Week 11 is another Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday slate of contests with conference title implications, so get the scoreboard warmed up. The East leaders will each have to hit the road to protect their spot, with a Miami - Ohio rivalry game still left on the schedule. If Northern Illinois can avoid the upset at Bowling Green, their remaining schedule sets up well for a strong finish and plenty of rest for the conference title game.

SUN BELT
Champion Destination: New Orleans Bowl
2010 Champion: FIU/Troy

CONTENDERS
1. Arkansas State (5-0)(7-2)
2. La.-Lafayette (6-1)(8-2)
3. Western Kentucky (5-1)(5-4)

Key Week 11 Games: La.-Lafayette at Arkansas State; Western Kentucky at LSU

Pick: Arkansas State. The Red Wolves have been on a tear for nearly two months, and now their opportunity to lock up the Sun Belt Conference comes right to their front door with Louisiana-Lafayette. The Ragin' Cajuns are fresh off a thrilling battle with Louisiana-Monroe that required two touchdowns in the final three minutes to secure the 36-35 victory. I like Arkansas State on Saturday, and to lock things up down the stretch in the Sun Belt.

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Posted on: November 6, 2011 3:06 am
 

Big East Winners and Losers: Week 10



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

After dropping their third straight game in a 25-16 losing effort against Cincinnati, few pundits had Louisville on their short list of Big East contenders. But second-year head coach Charlie Strong didn't quite have the pieces in place offensively for the Cardinals to reach their maximum potential. But after naming Shawn Watson the offensive play-caller, Teddy Bridgewater the starting quarterback, and allowing Dominique Brown to settle in as a true tailback; Louisville has found the winning combination.

The timing of Louisville's current three-game win streak also lines up nicely with Strong's lucrative contract extension, which will pay him to coach the Cardinals through 2018. Since the announcement of the new deal, Louisville is 3-0 and now sits alone in second place of the current Big East standings. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the young Cardinals, but as expected the young talent has improved throughout the season and now they are one win away from bowl eligibility for the second year in a row. Louisville hasn't been to bowl games in back-to-back years since Bobby Petrino's tenure, and the offensive growth shown in the 38-35 upset of West Virginia makes that scenario appear likely.

LOSER: West Virginia

Geno Smith's 410 passing yards weren't enough to lead West Virginia to victory on Saturday, and the Mountaineers find themselves on the losing end of a Big East conference matchup for the second time in three weeks. The 5-1 start that had the Mountaineers poised as a conference title contender has evaporated, and now Dana Holgorsen's team will likely need to win out in order to give themselves a chance at a BCS bowl bid. After being one of the nation's most stingy units in 2010, Jeff Casteel's 3-3-5 defense has been picked apart by quarterbacks in recent weeks.

The talent on the field is arguably the best in the conference, but West Virginia's inability to execute has plagued them since league play began. On Saturday it was a blocked/missed field goals and poor red zone defense that allowed Louisville to hang in the game and steal a victory late against the Mountaineers. Now the challenge for Holgorsen will be bouncing back in time for next week's showdown with conference-leading Cincinnati. One more conference loss all but seals West Virginia's destiny for a bowl berth in December. However, knocking off the Bearcats will open the title race up and give the Mountaineers the head-to-head tiebreaker advantage. Because of Saturday's loss, the next seven days could determine West Virginia's season.

WINNER: Rutgers' bowl eligibility

After a tough 2010 campaign, Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano said that it was "time to get back to playing Rutgers football." Schiano, the most tenured coach in a very young Big East, must have "Rutgers football" defined as "finding ways to win." For the Scarlet Knights won their second overtime game on Saturday, marching back from a 17-3 fourth quarter deficit to win 20-17 against South Florida. It was the fifth game this season decided by one score or less, and once again Rutgers found a way to win despite being out-gained offensively 381-228. Racking 228 yards of total offense is normally an easy way to lose to the likes of BJ Daniels, but the defense came through in the second half and put starter-turned-backup quarterback Chas Dodd in a position to lead the Scarlet Knights to victory. Now at 6-3, Rutgers is bowl eligible for the sixth time in seven years. Greg Schiano may not come to mind as one of the most dominant coaches in the game, but his time at Rutgers has been defined by consistent winning seasons.

LOSER: USF fourth-quarter defense

The four game losing streak that has South Florida in a 0-4 hole for league play is due in large part to the Bulls' performance late in games. In the slide, USF has been outscored 44-14 in the fourth quarter. At times (like the loss to Pittsburgh) the struggles were game-long, but holding a two-score lead against Rutgers and losing is cause for serious concern in the South Florida camp. Before conference play started the Bulls were ranked in the Top 20 and thought (by this author, included) to be one of the new frontrunners for the Big East title. Now mathematically out of the running for the crown, head coach Skip Holtz must rally the team to make the most out of the 2011 season.

Luckily, bowl eligibility is not out of question for the 4-4 Bulls. They will travel to face Syracuse in the Carrier Dome on Friday before finishing their schedule (Miami, Louisville, West Virginia) with three games in Tampa. If USF can win two of those contests they could find themselves snagging a bid to the BBVA Compass Bowl (or some similar Big East tie) with a 6-6 record. It would not be anything to hold a parade about, but a turnaround will be necessary if the Bulls want to have anything to build on heading into 2012.

WINNER: Cincinnati's Big East title hopes 

Charlie Strong isn't the only second-year coach making headlines with 2011's unpredicted success. Butch Jones continues to build on his impressive sophomore effort with the Bearcats, improving to 7-1 (3-0 in Big East play) with a 26-23 road victory against Pittsburgh. Already with a victory against Louisville, the Bearcats now have a two-game buffer on the competition for the conference's BCS bowl bid. Unfortunately the road to a BCS invitation will not come easily, with away games against Rutgers and Syracuse following Saturday's meeting with West Virginia. A win over the Mountaineers puts the Bearcats in a great position to win the league title outright. A loss will create a jumble for the title, and then tie-breakers suddenly become the differentiator between the Champs Sports Bowl and a BCS bowl appearance.

LOSER: Pittsburgh's offensive line 

Pittsburgh's offensive line has dealt with injuries and depth issues all season. Head coach Todd Graham's offensive scheme has led to heavy rotation among the five positions, with the Panthers never really settling in on a lineup yet this season. The issues up front have been felt by Pittsburgh's quarterbacks. The Panthers entered the game leading the nation in sacks allowed with 36 in eight games of action.

The offensive line was exploited once again by Cincinnati in the 26-23 loss, but you won't find the proof in the stat sheet. Tino Sunseri was only brought down three times in the losing effort, but the Bearcats brought the heat through the whole second half. Pittsburgh's inability to adjust to the pressure and get something going offensively eventually became their downfall, as they watched a 10 point lead disappear over the last two quarters.


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Posted on: November 6, 2011 3:06 am
 

Big East Winners and Losers: Week 10



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

After dropping their third straight game in a 25-16 losing effort against Cincinnati, few pundits had Louisville on their short list of Big East contenders. But second-year head coach Charlie Strong didn't quite have the pieces in place offensively for the Cardinals to reach their maximum potential. But after naming Shawn Watson the offensive play-caller, Teddy Bridgewater the starting quarterback, and allowing Dominique Brown to settle in as a true tailback; Louisville has found the winning combination.

The timing of Louisville's current three-game win streak also lines up nicely with Strong's lucrative contract extension, which will pay him to coach the Cardinals through 2018. Since the announcement of the new deal, Louisville is 3-0 and now sits alone in second place of the current Big East standings. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the young Cardinals, but as expected the young talent has improved throughout the season and now they are one win away from bowl eligibility for the second year in a row. Louisville hasn't been to bowl games in back-to-back years since Bobby Petrino's tenure, and the offensive growth shown in the 38-35 upset of West Virginia makes that scenario appear likely.

LOSER: West Virginia

Geno Smith's 410 passing yards weren't enough to lead West Virginia to victory on Saturday, and the Mountaineers find themselves on the losing end of a Big East conference matchup for the second time in three weeks. The 5-1 start that had the Mountaineers poised as a conference title contender has evaporated, and now Dana Holgorsen's team will likely need to win out in order to give themselves a chance at a BCS bowl bid. After being one of the nation's most stingy units in 2010, Jeff Casteel's 3-3-5 defense has been picked apart by quarterbacks in recent weeks.

The talent on the field is arguably the best in the conference, but West Virginia's inability to execute has plagued them since league play began. On Saturday it was a blocked/missed field goals and poor red zone defense that allowed Louisville to hang in the game and steal a victory late against the Mountaineers. Now the challenge for Holgorsen will be bouncing back in time for next week's showdown with conference-leading Cincinnati. One more conference loss all but seals West Virginia's destiny for a bowl berth in December. However, knocking off the Bearcats will open the title race up and give the Mountaineers the head-to-head tiebreaker advantage. Because of Saturday's loss, the next seven days could determine West Virginia's season.

WINNER: Rutgers' bowl eligibility

After a tough 2010 campaign, Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano said that it was "time to get back to playing Rutgers football." Schiano, the most tenured coach in a very young Big East, must have "Rutgers football" defined as "finding ways to win." For the Scarlet Knights won their second overtime game on Saturday, marching back from a 17-3 fourth quarter deficit to win 20-17 against South Florida. It was the fifth game this season decided by one score or less, and once again Rutgers found a way to win despite being out-gained offensively 381-228. Racking 228 yards of total offense is normally an easy way to lose to the likes of BJ Daniels, but the defense came through in the second half and put starter-turned-backup quarterback Chas Dodd in a position to lead the Scarlet Knights to victory. Now at 6-3, Rutgers is bowl eligible for the sixth time in seven years. Greg Schiano may not come to mind as one of the most dominant coaches in the game, but his time at Rutgers has been defined by consistent winning seasons.

LOSER: USF fourth-quarter defense

The four game losing streak that has South Florida in a 0-4 hole for league play is due in large part to the Bulls' performance late in games. In the slide, USF has been outscored 44-14 in the fourth quarter. At times (like the loss to Pittsburgh) the struggles were game-long, but holding a two-score lead against Rutgers and losing is cause for serious concern in the South Florida camp. Before conference play started the Bulls were ranked in the Top 20 and thought (by this author, included) to be one of the new frontrunners for the Big East title. Now mathematically out of the running for the crown, head coach Skip Holtz must rally the team to make the most out of the 2011 season.

Luckily, bowl eligibility is not out of question for the 4-4 Bulls. They will travel to face Syracuse in the Carrier Dome on Friday before finishing their schedule (Miami, Louisville, West Virginia) with three games in Tampa. If USF can win two of those contests they could find themselves snagging a bid to the BBVA Compass Bowl (or some similar Big East tie) with a 6-6 record. It would not be anything to hold a parade about, but a turnaround will be necessary if the Bulls want to have anything to build on heading into 2012.

WINNER: Cincinnati's Big East title hopes 

Charlie Strong isn't the only second-year coach making headlines with 2011's unpredicted success. Butch Jones continues to build on his impressive sophomore effort with the Bearcats, improving to 7-1 (3-0 in Big East play) with a 26-23 road victory against Pittsburgh. Already with a victory against Louisville, the Bearcats now have a two-game buffer on the competition for the conference's BCS bowl bid. Unfortunately the road to a BCS invitation will not come easily, with away games against Rutgers and Syracuse following Saturday's meeting with West Virginia. A win over the Mountaineers puts the Bearcats in a great position to win the league title outright. A loss will create a jumble for the title, and then tie-breakers suddenly become the differentiator between the Champs Sports Bowl and a BCS bowl appearance.

LOSER: Pittsburgh's offensive line 

Pittsburgh's offensive line has dealt with injuries and depth issues all season. Head coach Todd Graham's offensive scheme has led to heavy rotation among the five positions, with the Panthers never really settling in on a lineup yet this season. The issues up front have been felt by Pittsburgh's quarterbacks. The Panthers entered the game leading the nation in sacks allowed with 36 in eight games of action.

The offensive line was exploited once again by Cincinnati in the 26-23 loss, but you won't find the proof in the stat sheet. Tino Sunseri was only brought down three times in the losing effort, but the Bearcats brought the heat through the whole second half. Pittsburgh's inability to adjust to the pressure and get something going offensively eventually became their downfall, as they watched a 10 point lead disappear over the last two quarters.


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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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