Big East Week 13 Preview - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Big East Week 13 Preview

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MORGANTOWN -

The college football season is close to coming to an end, yet it feels like we're so far away from crowning a Big East champion. Any one of five teams could still claim the league title, and there are countless scenarios in which two or more teams tie for the top spot.

There are only two weeks of football left, though. Someone will end up stealing this championship, and this weekend will help separate a few serious contenders heading into the final week.

The first game that will be played will be at 11 a.m. on Friday, when South Florida (5-5, 1-4) welcomes Louisville (6-5, 4-2) to Tampa. If Louisville wins, they'll be hoping for Pitt and Cincinnati to lose. If that plays out, the Cardinals will win the Big East.

They need to worry about their own game before they start watching the scoreboard. Louisville has never won in Tampa. In fact, the home team is 7-1 in this series, with the only exception being last season, when USF went to Louisville and won in overtime.

The Bulls have to win one of their final two games in order to become bowl eligible. They knocked themselves out of the title hunt early by losing their first four conference games, but did win their last one against Syracuse. If they were to lose their next two games, it would be the first time since 2004 that they would fail to reach a bowl game.

Later that night, Pitt (5-5, 3-2) and West Virginia (7-3, 3-2) will renew the Big East's fiercest rivalry, the Backyard Brawl.

With conference realignment, many are wondering if this will be the last time these two will meet for a while, but these rivals don't have time to worry about that. Both of them are right in the middle of the conference race, and need to win their last two games in order to reach a BCS bowl.

There will likely be a lot of points put up Friday night. West Virginia has the best offense in the Big East, but its defense has had some trouble in conference play. The key for Pitt's offense will be holding onto the ball, and protecting quarterback Tino Sunseri from West Virginia's Julian Miller and Bruce Irvin.

The Panthers have struggled with giving up sacks all season, and Irvin, who had high expectations entering the season, has seen his play improve over the past few weeks. The loser of this game will basically be eliminated from contention, putting even more emphasis on an already anticipated game.

Saturday will feature two noon conference games that could have a profound impact on the top of the standings.

Connecticut (4-6, 2-4) will host Rutgers (8-3, 4-2), playing to stay alive for a bowl game. Rutgers has already doubled its win total from last season and clinched a bowl game, but a win on Saturday will at least guarantee a share of the conference title. From that point, the Scarlet Knights can only hope everything else falls into place.

The Huskies haven't defeated Rutgers since 2007. Since then, they've lost three games by a combined nine points. Neither team has been putting up a lot of points offensively lately, so it should be another close game.

For Rutgers, the key has remained the same throughout the season: force turnovers. They've been one of the best teams in the country at doing that for most of the season, and if they can do it on Saturday, it's hard to imagine the Huskies pulling the upset. But if UConn can protect the ball, they very well could derail the Knights' title hopes.

Cincinnati (7-3, 3-2) and Syracuse (5-5, 1-4) will also kick off at noon on Saturday. Like Connecticut, Pitt, and USF, Syracuse is looking earn a win to better their chances at making a bowl game.

Two weeks ago, the thought of an undefeated Cincinnati team possibly losing to struggling Syracuse seemed far-fetched, but a lot has changed for the Bearcats since then.

In their loss to West Virginia, they lost their star quarterback, Zach Collaros, and suffered their first conference loss of the season. Last week, in Munchie Legaux's first start, they managed just three points against Rutgers. It was the first time since 2005 that Cincinnati failed to score a touchdown.

Now, the question is whether or not they can score enough points to win their next two games. The defense has played well for most of the season, and they should be able to limit the points Syracuse earns, but if the offense isn't able to get into the end zone, it may not matter how well the defense plays.

Something to watch in this game is how Syracuse plays in this game coming off of a bye week. The last time the Orange played a game after a week off, they had their best game of the season, dominating West Virginia on a Friday night. A similar performance will end Cincinnati's championship plans.

As many as four of the league's top five teams could suffer their third conference loss this weekend. Only two of the two-loss teams actually play each other, though, so things could be just as cloudy heading into the last week of the season.

Whether or not we'll have a better idea of who the favorite is after this weekend is yet to be seen, but the season is almost over, so it's almost time to finally crown a Big East Champion.

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