Big East Race is College Football's Wildest
West Virginia, Cincinnati, Rutgers, Syracuse and more still have a shot at the BCS.
By: Patrick Snow | 10/24/11, 2:39 PM EDT
It seems like most of the recent Big East conversation has revolved around expansion, departures or just remaining a viable league. Meanwhile, the gridiron race to wear the conference crown and go to the BCS has become one of the most exciting and unpredictable in college football. Most pundits had West Virginia winning the league in the preseason, but the Mountaineers’ 49-23 loss at Syracuse has created championship optimism throughout the conference. Cincinnati stands alone without a loss in league play, while South Florida is the only winless team in conference games. Rutgers has a 2-1 league record, while the other five schools — Syracuse, West Virginia, Connecticut, Louisville and Pittsburgh — all stand at 1-1. The race for the Big East title should be a wild one and probably won’t be decided until the season’s final weekend on December 3.
Who is your favorite to win the Big East?
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Even though West Virginia is coming off a disappointing road loss to Syracuse, I still think the Mountaineers are the team to beat. There’s no question the offense is capable of scoring 35-40 points a game, but it needs more help from the offensive line and rushing attack. Quarterback Geno Smith didn’t have much time to throw against Syracuse, and that has been a reoccurring problem this year. The defense lost a handful of key contributors from last season’s team and it has shown so far. The Mountaineers rank seventh in the Big East in scoring defense and last in stopping the run. Clearly, there are some areas that need to be addressed. And the schedule isn’t overly easy the rest of the way, as West Virginia travels to Rutgers, Cincinnati and South Florida. The Bearcats seem to be West Virginia’s toughest competition in order to win the Big East, but I’m going to say the Mountaineers find the right answers on both sides of the ball and end up with the conference title.
Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden)
I will make a surprise pick and take the best defense in the league — the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. They lead the Big East in scoring defense, passing defense, pass efficiency defense and are second in total defense. Rutgers is fifth nationally in turnover margin and leads the conference in sacks. The Knights also get primary challengers West Virginia, Cincinnati and South Florida all at home, with only one Big East road trip left on the schedule (at UConn). Give me Daa Rutgaaars — with WVU a close second. But I guess we will find out the actual answer to this question on Saturday at 3:30 PM ET when the Mountaineers travel to Piscataway.
Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
This is a very difficult conference to predict from week to week, but I’ll take the Cincinnati Bearcats because of their overall balance. UC quarterback Zach Collaros is a solid passer, and he adds a ton to the run game that already has an outstanding tailback in Isaiah Pead. The Bearcats do give up too many pass yards on defense, but they allow less than 20 points per game. West Virginia is probably still considered the favorite by most, but the Mountaineers’ slow starts are concerning. If they fall behind early against Cincinnati, it may look like Friday night’s loss at Syracuse. It will be a tough November for Butch Jones’ club having to play at Pitt, at Rutgers and at Syracuse, in addition to hosting WVU at Paul Brown Stadium. But I think Cincinnati’s balance with its high-powered offense will carry the Bearcats to the BCS.
Mark Ennis – Big East Coast Bias (@Mengus22)
What a difference 17 days or so makes. Going into USF's Thursday night trip to Pittsburgh, I'd have picked them as the clear favorite to win the Big East. Now, they might be playing the worst football in the conference. In fact, the Bulls are the only team that realistically can't win the conference right now. Cincinnati has control of the Big East race and should be the favorite to win the conference for the third time in four years, but I still think West Virginia will win it. The two teams play at Paul Brown Stadium in two weeks and if the Tennessee and South Florida games indicate anything, it's that Cincinnati is susceptible to quality passing attacks. I think West Virginia got a wake-up call in the Carrier Dome on Friday night and is a better football team than it showed. Barring another mental lapse, the Mountaineers will win out. If they do that, Syracuse only has to drop one more Big East game and West Virginia will head back to the BCS.
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