Tag:Dana Holgorsen
Posted on: December 1, 2011 4:22 pm
Edited on: December 3, 2011 7:17 pm
 

Man vs. Woman vs. Machine: Week 14



Posted by Tom Fornelli


Man vs. Woman vs. Machine is a feature that runs every Thursday afternoon. It is here that Tom Fornelli fights against the rising tide of female empowerment and technology to ensure that men everywhere can at least claim that college football is still theirs. He does this by picking a set of games against the spread against his girlfriend, Lynn, and his Playstation 3.

This is it, the final week of MWM in the 2011 season, and it pretty much couldn't have gone worse for me. You see, heading into last week it was a two-horse race, and I was on the verge of losing a picks competition against my girlfriend. Well, then the Machine had to go 8-2 last week while both Woman and I struggled, and guess who is now in second place?

That's right, at the moment, I trail not only my girlfriend but my Playstation as well. Pretty much as embarrassing as embarrassing can be.

On the bright side, the race is closer than ever before, which is pretty much the ideal situation heading into the final week of any competition. Yes, I'm in last place, but I'm only two games behind Woman. Machine is a game behind. So any of us can win, which makes this week the single most important week of the MWM season.

Feel free to read our final picks of the season while I pool some money together and get to work bribing teams to help me out this weekend.

South Florida (Pick 'em) vs. West Virginia - Thursday, 8pm (All times Eastern)

Man - I was originally leaning toward South Florida because they're at home, and it's the Big East, so since you have no idea what's going to happen, leaning toward the home side is usually the best bet. But then the news that B.J. Daniels probably won't be playing came along, and, well, that changes things. Pick: West Virginia

Woman - "I want to pick the Bulls  - mostly so I can watch coach Dana Holgorsen figure out a way to blame West Virginia fans for the loss (start at minute 1:10 here to see his previous efforts) - but they're too banged up, so the mundane Mountaineers will squeak by." Pick: West Virginia

Machine - West Virginia keeps its slim BCS hopes alive with a rather easy 37-20 win over the Bulls. Pick: West Virginia

Oregon (-30 1/2) vs. UCLA - Friday, 8pm

Man - That is a very big spread. One that's big enough to make me think that maybe UCLA isn't a horrible pick because once Oregon gets up by a lot, it really has no reason to pile on, the Rose Bowl is its only possible destination. But then I realized I'd be putting my faith in Rick Neuheisel, and last game or not, no thanks. Pick: Oregon

Woman - "My prediction: At the start of his final game, fired UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel will rip off his shirt to reveal his 1984 SAN ANTONIO GUNSLINGERS JERSEY, SPRINT OUT ONTO THE FIELD AND, UNFAZED BY THE BAD BURRITO HE ATE FROM A TACO STAND ON LA CIENEGA, TAKE OVER AS QUARTERBACK, THROWING TO HIMSELF FOR TOUCHDOWN AFTER TOUCHDOWN UNTIL THE UCLA BOARD OF REGENTS REALIZES ITS GRIEVOUS ERROR, RUSHES TO THE SIDELINES AND ASKS, NAY, BEGS HIM TO STAY." Pick: Oregon

Machine - The Machine sees this one as a game that might be competitive-ish for a while on Friday night. It seems to think that the Bruins will experience some kind of Rick Neuheisel bump. They still lose, but only 41-28. Pick: UCLA

Houston (-14 1/2) vs. Southern Miss - Saturday, 12pm

Man - This game is odd for so many reasons, one being that both head coaches are being mentioned as candidates at other schools, which can be quite a distraction. I want to pick Houston because they're undefeated and torched a good Tulsa team last week, but then I started thinking about the BCS. Wouldn't it just make sense that in the final weekend of the season the undefeated team from the non-BCS conference fell due to some kind of BCS conspiracy? I'm pretty sure Bill Hancock is a Freemason....ahh, screw it. Pick: Houston

Woman - "Picking blind here cuz the only Southern miss I know got wasted on SigEp punch and woke up on the 50 yard line the next morning. Wait. That was me." Pick: Houston

Machine - The Machine sees Case Keenum putting the final stamp on a terrific regular season, as he throws for 414 yards and 5 touchdowns as Houston wins 45-28. Pick: Houston

Pitt (-10 1/2) vs. Syracuse - Saturday, 12pm

Man - Man, I seriously have no idea. Maybe it's the pressure of the situation I'm in getting to me, but I stare at this spread and it may as well be the equation on the chalkboard in Good Will Hunting. It's just a bunch of numbers and letters to me. Whatever, give me the Panthers. Pick: Pitt

Woman - "Syracuse is god awful but if there's one thing I learned watching last week's Backyard Brawl it's that every Orange defenseman should just yell "Boo!" while running towards Panthers QB Tino Sunseri, then wait for him drop to the ground and start weeping. That should keep the results within the spread, at least." Pick: Syracuse

Machine - The Machine nearly blew up after being forced to simulate two Big East games in the same week. Pitt wins 24-10. Pick: Pitt

Kansas State (-11 1/2) vs. Iowa State - Saturday, 12:30pm

Man - I think Iowa State has already had its big upset bid of the season, and I don't see them being able to stop Kansas State on the road this weekend. Plus, the Cyclones offense just did not look very good at all last week. Pick: Kansas State

Woman - "Game's not being played in Oklahoma? Check. Not against a team from Oklahoma? Check." Pick: Kansas State

Machine - Can't decide if this is good or bad news for Kansas State, but I'm pretty sure this is the first time all year that The Machine has picked the Wildcats. KSU wins 27-10. Pick: Kansas State

Baylor (-2 1/2) vs. Texas - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - Robert Griffin is expected to play, and although the Texas defense has been outstanding, I just don't see the Texas offense being able to keep up with the Bears for 60 minutes. Especially on the road. Pick: Baylor

Woman - "Note to Mack Brown: A television network does not a football team make." Pick: Baylor

Machine - Sorry, Baylor, The Machine just isn't buying what you're selling this season. Texas wins 27-24. Pick: Texas

LSU (-12 1/2) vs. Georgia - Saturday, 4pm

Man - Here's how good LSU is: the Tigers could lose this game and then go on to lose the national title game, and I'd still probably put them at #1 on my ballot. Pick: LSU

Woman - "The only times I lost on LSU games this season were when I bet against you, Les. What was I thinking?  (And by the way, I've decided to start a "DRAFT LES MILES FOR PRESIDENT" Committee, if only to see the look on his face when other candidates do really dumb things.)" Pick: LSU

Machine - The Machine doesn't really see Georgia threatening LSU in this game, but it also doesn't see much offense, and Georgia gets the cover because of it. LSU wins 14-6. Pick: Georgia

Oklahoma State (-3 1/2) vs. Oklahoma - Saturday, 8pm

Man - You know that BCS conspiracy thing I mentioned with my Southern Miss pick? Yeah, well it applies here too. What's the best way to ensure that there's no debate between Oklahoma State and Alabama? Have Oklahoma beat Oklahoma State. Though I suppose that when you consider how the Sooners have dominated this rivalry through time, the conspiracy may not be necessary. Pick: Oklahoma

Woman - "This is it, Cowboys. Time to show all the naysayers why you belong in the BCS Championship. If you win, you've earned it (though it will have to be by thirty points to convince the myopic BCS voters)." Pick: Oklahoma State

Machine - The Machine sticks with the trends. Oklahoma wins 41-35. Pick: Oklahoma

Virginia Tech (-7 1/2) vs. Clemson - Saturday, 8pm

Man - Clemson has already beaten Virginia Tech by 20 earlier this season, and although the Tigers haven't exactly been a good team the last few weeks, I'm still confident that they can at the very worst cover that spread on a neutral field. Pick: Clemson

Woman - "Really? This could be the game that loses me the MWM season? Pass the Maalox while I puzzle through my choices. Yeah, they crushed Virginia last week, but I still have Hokie hesitation. I'm taking a deep breath and going with Sammy Watkins plus home field advantage. Your move, Sicilian." Pick: Clemson

Machine - The Hokies get revenge and quite a bit of it, as Tech picks up a relatively easy 27-7 win. Pick: Virginia Tech

Michigan State vs. Wisconsin (-9 1/2) - Saturday, 8:17pm 

Man - I think we've seen the best from Michigan State already this season, and now that they're facing a Wisconsin team that's once again gotten rolling on a neutral field, I'm liking the Badgers' chances. Pick: Wisconsin

Woman - "Next stop, Rose Bowl. (Hey, guys, thanks to you for reading and to Fornelli for coming up with this competition. It's been a lot of fun. Also, thanks to CBS Sports for finally shattering the glass ceiling last week, so I can now look forward to a continued future in football prognostication.)" Pick: Wisconsin

Machine - The Machine doesn't believe in God, and therefore it does not see any Hail Mary saving the Spartans this time. Wisconsin wins 31-23, but that's a cover for Sparty. Pick: Michigan State

Standings

Season Record (Last Week)

1. Woman 73-62 (4-6)
2. Machine 72-63 (8-2)
3. Man 71-64 (4-6)
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 20, 2011 4:00 am
Edited on: November 20, 2011 1:13 pm
 

Big East Winners and Losers: Week 12



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: Jawan Jamison

It may have been Senior Day at High Point Solutions Stadium, but the star of Rutgers' 20-3 win over Cincinnati was freshman running back Jawan Jamison. Jamison ran 34 times for 200 yards (both career highs) and scored both of the Scarlet Knights' touchdowns as Rutgers moved into a tie for first place in the Big East. A 5-2 conference record will earn at least a share of the Big East title this season, and now the Scarlet Knights are one win away from their best conference finish since joining the Big East in 1991. Head coach Greg Schiano made it a point to stress a physical approach to both sides of the ball following last year's 4-8 finish, and the Scarlet Knights dominated Cincinnati thanks to Jamison's relentless running and a gritty performance on defense. Cincinnati dual-threat quarterback Munchie Legaux was held to 31 yards on 12 carries and star running back Isaiah Pead accumulated only 28 yards in 14 attempts. If Rutgers can beat Connecticut on the road, they'll have physical rushing and a physical rush defense to thank for their first share of a Big East conference title.

LOSER: Munchie Legaux

It was a rough day for the talented backup quarterback, getting his first start of the season in place of injured starter Zach Collaros. Legaux has the physical talents to be a real threat for the Bearcats in the future, but this season's offense just doesn't run the same way without Collaros at the helm. As the last undefeated team in conference play, Cincinnati entered November with a target on their back. Legaux looked flustered and frustrated for a majority of the 20-3 loss to Rutgers, as the Scarlet Knights shut down the Bearcats' ground attack and forced the sophomore to become a drop back passer. Legaux completed just 12 of his 31 passing attempts, and was held to just 31 yards rushing as Cincinnati failed to reach the end zone for the first time all season. Seeing the offense struggle without their senior quarterback has to sting Bearcats' fans, but Legaux needs a quick revival if Cincinnati is going to stay in contention for the Big East title. Syracuse and Connecticut are both winnable games, but they'll need to win both and get some help to earn a BCS bowl game bid.

WINNER: Charlie Strong

Not only has the Strong led the Cardinals from a disappointing 2-4 start to bowl eligibility for the second straight year, but he's accomplished the feat with two very different teams. Last season's squad was made up mostly of upperclassmen, and anchored by a a bruising rushing attack in the hands of senior Bilal Powell. After some shuffling in the first half of the season, the Cardinals are now led by an efficient Teddy Bridgewater-led attack. The defense has tightened up to Strong's taste, and now Louisville has an inside track towards a share of the Big East title. A win at USF next friday guarantees at least a tie for the conference championship, and key wins over Rutgers and West Virginia give them great odds to win a tie-breaker scenario. After troubling losses to FIU and Marshall early in the season, Strong has done a great job to rally a young team that has gotten better as the season progressed.

LOSER: BJ Daniels

Neither team was able to generate much of an offensive performance in Miami's 6-3 win over USF on Saturday, but the Bulls offense became nonexistent when starting quarterback BJ Daniels left the game with a shoulder injury in the third quarter. Head coach Skip Holtz has spoken extensively this season about Daniels' improvement as a quarterback, and he has been the most consistent performer in an otherwise inconsistent season for the Bulls. USF had no information on the extent of Daniels' injury, but the drop off when backup quarterback Bobby Eveld took over was significant. With Eveld under center, the offense generated just 75 yards on 17 plays and converted none of their five third down attempts down the stretch. Despite the disappointing performance in conference play, USF is still one win away from bowl eligibility. Daniels' health is an immediate concern with a short turnaround before hosting Louisville on Friday in Raymond James Stadium. With Louisville and West Virginia both competing for a BCS bowl bid, the Bulls can expect their best shot in the final two games of the season. In order for South Florida to answer with their best, they'll need Daniels out on the field.

WINNER: West Virginia

Even in an off week, the Mountaineers were winners in Week 12 thanks to the latest shake-ups in the conference title race. With Cincinnati's loss to Rutgers, five teams are in title contention with just 2 conference losses. The Mountaineers and Bearcats will fight with Rutgers, Louisville, and Pittsburgh over the final two weeks of the season for the conference's most sought-after prize: a BCS bowl bid. Earning a share of top spot won't be enough to satisfy a team hungry for college football's grand stage, and now the focus turns to the Big East tiebreaker rules. In 3- or 4-team ties, the tiebreaker is decided the record against the other teams involved in the tie. Currently, only one of West Virginia's two conference losses is to a team still in title contention: Louisville. The other two-loss teams have fallen to each other, giving the Mountaineers a slight advantage heading into the season's final weeks.

LOSER: Phillip Thomas

Syracuse was off in Week 12, but the Orange suffered a huge loss with the suspension of star safety Phillip Thomas. Doug Marrone's defense has struggled as of late, and currently ranks last in the Big East giving up nearly 400 yards per game. Thomas has been one of the few bright spots in the lineup, leading the team in tackles and interceptions. But Phillip Thomas' suspension will not just last the rest of the 2011 season, as the school announced a one-year length on the safety's punishment for violation of an Athletic Department policy. No official explanation has been offered by the school or Thomas, though it would not be surprising to see the junior declare for the NFL draft after receiving this mysterious one-year punishment.


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Posted on: November 13, 2011 1:53 am
Edited on: November 13, 2011 2:35 am
 

Big East Winners and Losers: Week 11



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: Dana Holgorsen's "Winners"

The West Virginia head coach was so fed up with his team's effort in recent weeks, he threatened to cut the travel roster - only taking "who wants to win." The Mountaineers did travel a few short of their usual amount, which is about 70. But the ones that did walk into Paul Brown Stadium did so prepared to win, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. The defensive line got pressure on the quarterback consistently for the first time in weeks, led by the efforts of Julian Miller and Bruce Irvin. Offensively Geno Smith found ways to put the ball in the hands of Tavon Austin (9 catches, 126 yards) and Stedman Bailey (6 catches, 104 yards) while avoiding interceptions. The Mountaineers did benefit from Zach Collaros' injury, but a win is a win in the now wide open Big East title race.

LOSER: Zach Collaros, Cincinnati

Cincinnati picking up their first conference loss against West Virginia on Saturday was not just significant because it re-opens the conference title race. The Bearcats offense took a huge hit when senior quarterback Zach Collaros left the game with an apparent ankle injury. The veteran signal caller was hit by West Virginia defensive end Bruce Irvin, coughing up the ball in the end zone for a Mountaineer recover touchdown. But as Collaros was being brought to the ground his leg appeared to bend underneath his body, resulting in the Cincinnati medical staff taking him into the locker room.

Cincinnati's offense eventually got running under athletic backup Munchie Legaux, but there was a slow start and considerable drop off from when Collaros is under center. While Legaux can present that same rushing threat that Collaros presents to a defense, the young sophomore quarterback is not as productive moving the ball through the air. Cincinnati still holds a one-game on the rest of the pack in the Big East standings, but they must win out in order to avoid a tiebreaker scenario with another team. Things get serious next week for the Bearcats, who will face Rutgers next week on the road with at least a share of the Big East title on the line. The official word on Collaros is an ankle injury, and he is expected to undergo further testing before any decisions are made regarding his availability for next week. When he reemerged from the locker room, Collaros was in street clothes on crutches. Needless to say, it was not a welcome sight for Cincinnati fans.

WINNER: Mohamed Sanu

Despite an ever-changing quarterback situation, Rutgers wide receiver Mohamed Sanu has been able to put together a historic 2011 season. He was once again the most dominant offensive threat for the Scarlet Knights in the 27-12 win over Army, pulling in 13 of the team's 17 receptions. The performance brings Sanu's reception count on the season to 94, breaking the Big East single-season record for catches. The record (92) was previously held by former Pittsburgh and current Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. The consistency of having Sanu has been a crutch for an otherwise inconsistent offense, and a big part of the reason the Scarlet Knights are 7-3 heading into the final weeks of the season.

LOSER: Louisville's rush defense

Coming into the game, Louisville relied on one of the Big East's toughest rushing defenses to keep the Cardinals' in games and give freshman quarterback Teddy Bridgewater a chance. But after the 38-35 win over West Virginia put Charlie Strong's team in a position to make a run at a BCS bowl bid, the Cardinals put up one of their worst defensive efforts since Strong arrived in Louisville. The Cardinals gave up 200 yards on the ground to Pittsburgh, who has been without leading rusher Ray Graham (season-ending knee injury) since Oct. 26. The inability to stop the Panthers on the ground kept Bridgewater and the offense from opportunities to climb back into the game.

WINNER: BJ Daniels 

After a white-hot start and an early season national ranking as high as No. 15, South Florida quickly found themselves in jeopardy of making a bowl game at the end of 2011. The Bulls entered Friday night's contest against Syracuse in the Carrier Dome needing a win to keep their hopes of a second-straight bowl appearance under Skip Holtz alive. Junior quarterback BJ Daniels has received praise from coaches and teammates alike for the strides he's made this season under center. Daniels stepped up when his team needed him most, picking up 254 yards through the air and leading the Bulls in rushing with 117 yards and a touchdown on the ground. The 371 yards of total offense nearly outgained Syracuse as a team (405), and looked effortless as Daniels was not sacked once and did not throw a single interception. It was the performance USF needed from their offensive leader, and now the Bulls have three consecutive home games to try and get that sixth win and return to the postseason.

LOSER: Big East kickers

The most notable kicking struggles in Week 11 occurred in West Virginia's 24-21 victory over Cincinnati in Paul Brown Stadium, but the league as a whole did not boot it well this weekend. Tyler Bitancurt hit just one of three field goals against the Bearcats, but that one ended up deciding the game with Cincinnati's Tony Miliano missing both of his attempts. The blocked 31-yard field goal as time expired will be the one that haunts the freshman kicker, but the kicking woes were a trend across the Big East. The place-kickers in the conference combined to make just 5 of 11 field goals on the weekend, numbers that were padded with the performances of South Florida's Maikon Bonani (3/3) and Syracuse's Ross Krautman (1/1).

WINNER: Fans of tiebreaker scenarios 

Heading into the weekend, Cincinnati was the conference's only unbeaten team, and Louisville held one game over a slew of 2-loss (conference record) contenders in the standings. With Cincinnati losing at home to West Virginia and Louisville doing the same against Pittsburgh, the race has been blown wide open. The Bearcats maintain their slight lead on the pack with only one conference loss, but five other teams all are in position to possibly win a share of the Big East title in the next three weeks.

The Big East title has been shared four of the last eight seasons, but there is only one gold medal: the automatic bid to a BCS bowl. So as the final weeks wind down, every matchup will have potential tie-breaker implications in the final sorting of the league standings. From here on out, every 2-loss team facing Cincinnati has a shot to win at least a share of the title. This starts with Rutgers welcoming the visiting Bearcats next week at High Point Solutions Stadium. With the victory over West Virginia, the Mountaineers have also put themselves in a favorable position as long as they win out and Cincinnati picks up another loss along the way. Louisville, considered a dark horse just a week ago, will need to hit the road to face Connecticut and South Florida on their quest for a return to the BCS bowls.

No team has ever won even a share of the Big East title with more than two conference losses. With Cincinnati losing to West Virginia and five other teams with two losses, the final three weeks of the regular season will be a battle for survival for all six teams in contention. We'll brush up on the Big East tiebreaker rules next week, but anyone who loves this kind of title race chaos will enjoy the conference play down the stretch.

LOSER: USF and Syrcause 

While 75% of the conference buckles down for an intense final stretch of league games, South Florida and Syracuse are the only teams not invited to the party. With matching 1-4 conference records, the Bulls and Orange are eliminated from contention for the Big East title. The good news for these two struggling squads is that bowl eligibility is still in the cards. Syracuse needs to win one of their final two contests to make the postseason for the second straight year, though they might find that difficult with Cincinnati and Pittsburgh on the schedule. South Florida has the benefit of three home games to close the regular season, needing just one more win to become bowl eligible. The Bulls host Miami and Louisville before closing the schedule against West Virginia on a nationally televised Thursday night showdown.

BONUS WINNER: Rutgers' Eric LeGrand and Army running back Malcolm Brown



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