Well...if there is one good thing we can take out of the weekend (and really, aren't we all desperately digging for anything good we can take out of that weekend other than the ideal weather?), the road to the Big East championship just became much clearer. Not for the best, mind you, but at least now we know who we need to root for and what we need to happen to see the Mountaineers in the BCS. In last week's edition of the Rooting Guide, I commented on the recent trend of league favorites WVU and Pitt to collapse down the stretch, opening the door for teams like Cincinnati, UConn, and possibly Louisville this year to steal the conference title. Well...it happened again, with both the Mountaineers and Panthers dropping close games at home to fall into a 3-way tie for fourth place at 2-2. After Syracuse lost at UConn and USF fell to 0-4 in conference play with a loss at Rutgers, here are the current standings:
Cincinnati 3-0 88 73 7-1 313 156 W6
Louisville 3-1 97 84 5-4 179 165 W3
Rutgers 3-2 118 100 6-3 247 170 W1
West Virginia 2-2 142 134 6-3 344 247 L1
Pittsburgh 2-2 112 97 4-5 235 214 L1
Connecticut 2-2 80 109 4-5 204 201 W1
Syracuse 1-3 96 97 5-4 240 242 L2
South Florida 0-4 78 117 4-4 260 185 L4
Cincinnati has a stranglehold on the inside track to the BCS, holding what is basically a 2-game lead over everyone else in the conference and having already defeated Louisville. Fortunately for WVU, they still have to play one more game than everyone else, so there are ample chances to slip up.
At this point, the best WVU can reasonably hope for is a 3-way tie for first place at 5-2. That would requre WVU to win out, Cincinnati to lose an extra game, and Louisville to lose an extra game. It may be a long shot, but it's not outside the realm of possibility and really, it's the only shot we have. Let's look at the remaining games for each team after the jump.
NOTE: Last week, I also previewed the remaining games for Big XII teams. This weekend's victories by Oklahoma and Oklahoma State over Texas A&M and Kansas State, respectively, all but assure that the December 3 Bedlam game will decide the conference champion and a potential spot in the BCS Championship game. With both teams holding victories over closest pursuers Kansas State and Texas, it would take losses in both of their next 2 games to unseat either the Cowboys or Sooners. Oklahoma has Baylor, State has Texas Tech, and both play Iowa State. I'm not betting against either.
As I said last week:
Cincinnati and Pitt are, from my perspective, the two "must-wins", as they are most likely to finish at 5-2. Louisville could also finish at 5-2, and finishes with Pitt, USF, and UConn. If WVU loses to the Cardinals this weekend, the Mountaineers would need to root for either 2 of those teams to kock off the Cardinals or hope for one win and a 3-way tie with Louisville and another team that Louisville lost to and WVU beat, such as Cincinnati or Pitt.
USF @ Syracuse (Friday, November 11) - Irrelevant to WVU's BCS hopes.
WVU @ Cincinnati - Obviously, WVU needs to win out to get to the BCS.
Pitt @ Louisville - WVU needs Louisville to lose another game. I hate to root for Pitt, but this might be the best chance for the Cardinals to pick up that second league loss.
Cincinnati @ Rutgers - Rutgers is dangerous, particularly at home. If WVU knocks off Cincy this weekend, the Bearcats may be vulnerable in Piscataway. Mountaineers should pull for Rutgers here.
Louisville @ UConn - UConn has looked horrible this year, but did beat USF and Syracuse, both in Storrs. If Louisville beats Pitt and finds itself tied with Cincinnati for the league lead after this weekend, they could be ripe for an upset. Again, we need to pull for the Huskies here.
Pitt @ WVU (Friday, November 25) - Again, WVU must win out.
Louisville @ USF (Friday, November 25) - USF can't go winless in the league...can they?
Cincinnati @ Syracuse - The Orange, as we have seen, can be tough at home. They could match up well against the Bearcats due to their blitzing scheme and size up front.
Rutgers @ UConn - This is probably irrelevant to WVU's BCS hopes, but as we'll discuss below, Rutgers and UConn both still could factor into all this.
WVU @ USF (Thursday, December 1) - Have I mentioned that WVU needs to win out?
UConn @ Cincinnati - I really don't want to have to rely on UConn to win on at Nippert for WVU to have a chance.
Syracuse @ Pitt - Hey, another irrelevant game! Do I really need to tell you to root for the Orange, though?
The teams that really stand out to me in all this are Rutgers and UConn. If one of them gets hot and runs the table, they would also factor into any tiebreaker scenario, and would help WVU because WVU already beat both of them. (Side note: tiebreakers are determined as head-to-head in the event of a 2-way tie, and mini-conference records in the event of a 3 or more-way tie; if still tied, the highest ranked BCS team goes.) The worst thing that could happen would be for Louisville to lose one more, but for Cincinnati to drop 3 games and fall out of the tiebreaker. In that case, Rutgers wouldn't do us any good since they already lost to Louisville, so WVU would need for UConn to win out, including a win over Louisville.
I'm going to conclude by reiterating that this is all dependent on WVU winning out, which, as we've seen, is a far, far cry from being a lock. And that's the thought that makes me throw up in my mouth just a little. Happy rooting!