Finally, we've got a pretty good idea of who could end up stealing the Big East title this season.
That's not to say anything's set in stone. Three teams- Louisville, Cincinnati, and West Virginia- still have a shot at winning it heading into the final week, but given the fact that a five-way tie was still possible a week ago at this time, a three-team race gives the league a sense of normalcy.
With five teams sitting with exactly two losses coming into the weekend, the Big East was almost as wide open in week 13 as it was at the beginning of conference play. However, Pitt (5-6, 3-3) and Rutgers (8-4, 4-3) each lost this weekend, eliminating both teams from contention.
Pitt's loss came in Morgantown Friday night in what could be the last installment of the Backyard Brawl, at least in the foreseeable future. The Panthers led West Virginia (8-3, 4-2) for almost the entire game, but gave up a score with 6:10 remaining to give the Mountaineers their first lead, which they would hold for a 21-20 win.
Once again for WVU, special teams mistakes almost proved to be too costly to overcome, but this time in a different sense. This week, they didn't have poor punting throughout the game. In fact, after Michael Molinari had a particularly short punt, Corey Smith came in and had a great game for West Virginia. But this week, the Mountaineers had one Pitt punt bounce off of a blocker into a Pitt player's hands, and saw Tavon Austin drop another punt.
The defense, in an effort that was easily one of the best of the season, only allowed six combined points from those mistakes, keeping WVU within striking distance in order to take the late-game lead.
With the loss, Pitt will need to beat Syracuse next weekend just to reach a bowl game. West Virginia will play USF on Thursday. If they win that game, they need Cincinnati to beat Connecticut. That would create a three-way tie, in which the Mountaineers would likely have the tie-breaker.
The Bearcats (8-3, 4-2) kept themselves alive for a BCS bowl this weekend with a win over Syracuse. Cincinnati's offense wasn't able to get much going early behind Munchie Legaux, but took a 10-6 lead into the half. Isaiah Pead scored just 17 seconds into the second half, which was enough for his team.
Cincinnati added on 13 points anyway, though, to win 30-13. The Bearcats will now hope for a West Virginia loss Thursday night, and need to take care of Connecticut next week to win the league. In a three-way tie with WVU and Louisville, the highest-ranked team in the BCS would get the BCS bid, and right now, that would be West Virginia.
Louisville (7-5, 5-2) needed to go into Tampa and beat South Florida (5-6, 1-5) in order to keep its championship hopes alive, and did just that. USF did lead by as much as two touchdowns at one point in the second quarter, but the Cardinals outscored the Bulls 24-7 in the second half to win 34-24.
Teddy Bridgewater had a big game for Louisville, throwing for 241 yards and three touchdowns. USF was forced to go to Bobby Eveld at quarterback, and while he wasn't spectacular, he played pretty well in the most action he's seen. It just wasn't enough to get South Florida the win. Like Pitt, USF will need to win Thursday night against West Virginia to gain bowl eligibility.
For Louisville, the scenario for a Big East Championship is simple. Their season is over, so if Cincinnati loses on Saturday, the Cardinals will represent the conference in a BCS game. If not, they won't be able to match Cincinnati or West Virginia in BCS ranking with five losses, so they will be left behind.
Coming into the weekend, Rutgers (8-4, 4-3) had a chance at the championship too, but Connecticut (5-6, 3-3) ruined that opportunity by beating up on the Knights, 40-22.
The Huskies took an early lead in the game, and they never let Rutgers make it much of a game. The Scarlet Knights pulled within 11 in the second quarter, but gave up the next 19 points and were blown out of Storrs.
UConn's 40 points were the most the team has scored all season, and the aspect of the game that was the strength of this Rutgers team turned in favor of the Huskies on Saturday. Rutgers turned the ball over six times, digging themselves too deep of a hole to climb out of. Connecticut also held the Knights to negative-9 yards on the ground.
Neither one of these teams is in contention for the Big East title.
Things have finally cleared up in the Big East. By around 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, we should know who the Big East champion will be. Whoever ends up representing the Big East in a BCS game will have to earn the nation's respect, because the Big East as a whole certainly didn't do that this season.