Big East Week 14 Recap - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Big East Week 14 Recap

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MORGANTOWN -

It's only appropriate that, in one of the most unpredictable seasons in Big East history, it came down to the final BCS standings to decide which team would represent the conference in a BCS bowl.

Luckily for the West Virginia Mountaineers, some voters and computers thought they were better than Louisville and Cincinnati, so WVU will be heading to the Orange Bowl to face Clemson on Jan. 4.

West Virginia (9-3, 5-2) was the highest ranked of those three teams for most of the season, and entered the final week of the season as the only Big East team in the top 25. So, heading into the final week, the Mountaineers needed to beat South Florida (5-7, 1-6). They needed Cincinnati (9-3, 5-2) to beat Connecticut (5-7, 3-4). And they needed the polls to keep them ahead of both Cincinnati and Louisville.

Everything fell into place for WVU, and it will now make its third trip to a BCS bowl. The weekend's success didn't come without stress, though.

The first game of the weekend came on Thursday night, when West Virginia traveled to Tampa to play USF. The Bulls had just one conference win all season, but the Mountaineers have not had much success in Florida. South Florida had won two in a row over WVU.

The Mountaineers took an early lead in the game, but the offense had trouble finding points against the USF defense. Costly mistakes by WVU put the Bulls right back into the game, and a Geno Smith interception that was returned for a touchdown in the fourth quarter gave South Florida its first lead of the game. West Virginia followed that up with a scoring drive to tie it. USF was driving at the end of the game before Najee Goode forced a B.J. Daniels fumble.

Smith was then given an opportunity to give WVU the win. It took a diving effort by Stedman Bailey to pull in a catch, which allowed Smith to spike it, and Tyler Bitancurt to come in and kick a field goal to give the Mountaineers a 30-27 win. And with that, they became Cincinnati fans.

If Cincinnati took care of Connecticut at home on Saturday, it would be in a three-way tie at the top with West Virginia and Louisville. Of course, the highest ranked team would represent the Big East in a BCS bowl. If the Bearcats lost, Louisville would win the conference.

Early mistakes by UConn gave Cincinnati an early 14-0 lead, which they extended to 28-3 late in the first half. It appeared that things were going West Virginia's way.

Things got a lot more interesting in the second half. The Huskies found some momentum and scored 15 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to pull within eight. They wouldn't get any closer, though, and Cincinnati held on to win, 35-27.

Pitt (6-6, 4-3) and Syracuse (5-7, 1-6) also played on Saturday, with bowl eligibility on the line. Both teams entered 5-6, needing one more win to make a bowl game. The game was close throughout, and the Orange had an opportunity late in the game to go on a drive to win the game. However, Ryan Nassib had the ball knocked out of his hand, and Antwuan Reed snatched it out of the air and took it into the endzone to give Pitt a 33-20 win.

With that, the Big East regular season came to an end, but we still had no closure on who would be going to a BCS bowl. But on Sunday, the BCS rankings came out, and West Virginia landed 23rd, ahead of Cincinnati and Louisville, to earn a trip to the Orange Bowl.

Cincinnati fell to the Autozone Liberty Bowl, while Louisville ended up in the Belk Bowl. Pitt (BBVA Compass Bowl) and Rutgers (8-4, 4-3, Pinstripe Bowl) will also represent the conference in the postseason.

West Virginia will almost certainly be an underdog against Clemson. The Big East has lost three consecutive BCS bowls, and did little to strengthen its perception this season. The current situation, in which the Big East representative is involved in a lawsuit with the conference itself, is an awkward one, but it's a game the Big East needs West Virginia to win.

The conference has been receiving less respect every season since West Virginia's win over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl in January of 2008. Sending an 8-4 Connecticut last season, and now a 9-3 WVU won't necessarily help. But a win certainly won't hurt.

West Virginia's future in the Big East is cloudy. There may not even be a future. It's possible that the Mountaineers have played their last Big East game.

But if that's the case, West Virginia has ended its time in the Big East Conference by winning the league, and representing it in a BCS bowl one last time.

 

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