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Big East Football Notebook 11.7.11: League, Finally, Has Clear Cut Leader

It has been a while since the Big East Conference football standings have been this clear. However, with four weeks remaining in the regular season, a lot can happen. SB Nation New York's Jared Smith gives the lowdown on what's left for each Big East program.

Maalik Bomar (4) of the Cincinnati Bearcats celebrates with his teammates following their win against the Pittsburgh Panthers on November 5, 2011 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Maalik Bomar (4) of the Cincinnati Bearcats celebrates with his teammates following their win against the Pittsburgh Panthers on November 5, 2011 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
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It took 11 weeks, but the Big East Conference finally has a clear cut leader at the top of its standings. The University of Cincinnati, winners of six straight, including a huge, 26-23, road victory against the University of Pittsburgh Saturday, sits atop of the Big East standings and is the only program that controls its league-title destiny.

Yes, believe it or not, after just three weeks of conference play, the race for the league's Bowl Championship Series bowl berth is easily visible. The Bearcats, essentially, have a two-game advantage on the University of Louisville, which sits in second place with a 3-1 conference record, because of a victory over the Cardinals earlier in the season.


Big East Conference Standings

(updated 11.6.2011 at 1:37 AM EDT)


However, this is the Big East and with four weeks to go anything can, and probably, will happen. So, just in case you need a lay of the Big-East-title land, here's a brief look at where each Big East football program stands in the league title race and its upcoming schedules:

Cincinnati Bearcats (7-1, 3-0 Big East)

Its obvious that the Bearcats are the best team in the league. Even though, it may have taken all of us Big East experts 11 weeks to figure it out. But, Cincy fans shouldn't get too ahead of themselves because the Bearcats are the only Big East program that has four league games remaining, including a tough one this week against visiting West Virginia University.

Cincinnati has the offensive talent to continue its winning ways, but its defense needs to be more consistent and senior quarterback Zach Collaros needs to make better decisions, which, luckily, have not cost the Bearcats a game.

  • Vs. West Virginia (Nov. 12)
  • At Rutgers University (Nov. 19)
  • At Syracuse University (Nov. 26)
  • Vs. the University of Connecticut (Dec. 3)

Louisville Cardinals (5-4, 3-1)

What a surprise the Cardinals have been. Led by second-year high coach Charlie Strong, Louisville doesn't control its own destiny to a Big East title -- it lost to Cincinnati, 25-16, on Oct. 15 -- but, is in solid position to earn that coveted BCS bowl berth.

Louisville has the league's top rated defense allowing just 322.0 yards and 18.33 points per game -- each ranked at the top of the league -- and love to create havoc for opposing offensives.

Currently, true freshman quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is not losing games for the Cardinals and is slowly developing into a solid weapon. Last week, Bridgewater competed 21-of-27 passes for a collegiate-best 246 yards and a touchdown during a 38-35 victory over West Virginia, which entered the game ranked No. 21 in the AP Poll and No. 24 in the USA Today/Coaches Poll. The performance was good enough to earn Rivals.com's National Freshman Of The Week honors.

  • Vs. Pittsburgh (Nov. 12)
  • At UConn (Nov. 19)
  • At South Florida (Nov. 25)

Rutgers Scarlet Knights (6-3, 3-2)

Despite not having a set starting quarterback -- head coach Greg Schiano has been flip flopping from sophomore Chas Dodd, who began the season as starter, and true freshman Gary Nova, who was benched last week and will not start this upcoming week against Army -- the Scarlet Knights have reeled off three Big East victories.

Because Rutgers lost earlier this season, Oct. 15, to Louisville, 16-14, the Scarlet Knight do not control their own Big East title destiny. However, with a victory over Pittsburgh, 34-10, Oct. 8, and a future meeting against Cincinnati, Nov. 19, it still is possible that Rutgers, a program that picked to finish last in the Big East, could pull off the impossible.

  • At Army (Nov. 12)
  • Vs. Cincinnati (Nov. 19)
  • At UConn (Nov. 26)

West Virginia Mountaineers (6-3, 2-2)

There is no debating that, so far, 2011-12 has been a disappointing season for the fans in Morgantown, WV. On paper, WVU was easily the preseason pick to win the league. The season, started off solid, but it all came to a crashing halt, Oct. 1, when the Mountaineers were dominated at Syracuse, 49-23. WVU rebounded the following week with a victory over Rutgers, 41-31, but, again, lost Saturday to a Big East opponent, Louisville, 38-35.

Luckily, West Virginia has three Big East games remaining, including match ups against Cincinnati and Pittsburgh -- each are near the top of the league standings. The Mountaineers, who have a lot of talent, can make up ground. However, the loss to the Cardinals may hurt them in a tiebreaker situation.

  • At Cincinnati (Nov. 12)
  • Vs. Pittsburgh (Nov. 25)
  • At South Florida (Dec. 1)

Connecticut Huskies (4-5, 2-2)

Another Big East program that has had a tough time figuring out its quarterback situation, but, somehow, still finds itself in the Big East title race is UConn. The Huskies do have an overall record below .500, two of its five losses came to Iowa State University, 24-20, and Western Michigan University, 38-31, but has beaten South Florida, 16-10, and Syracuse, 28-21, in league play.

Talent wise, UConn is behind the front runners, but if somehow the Huskies can run the table it has a good chance at winning the conference. However, UConn can't slip up and with Louisville and Cincinnati on the upcoming schedule that probably will not happen.

  • Vs. Louisville (Nov. 19)
  • Vs. Rutgers (Nov. 26)
  • At Cincinnati (Dec. 3)

Syracuse Orange (5-4, 1-3)

What a difference two weeks makes. Following a huge victory over WVU, the Orange controlled its Big East/BCS destiny, but back-to-back league losses to Louisville and UConn, respectively, has SU hoping for a miracle to win the league -- Syracuse needs to win its last three games, while Louisville and Cincinnati need to lose out.

Right, now the Orange are trying to string some wins together so it can become bowl eligible for the second straight season -- SU just needs one more victory -- and hope its bowl invite isn't to the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham, AL.

  • Vs. South Florida (Nov. 11)
  • Vs. Cincinnati (Nov. 28)
  • At Pittsburgh (Dec. 3)

South Florida Bulls (4-4, 0-4)

After losing to Rutgers Saturday, the Bulls have been officially eliminated from Big East championship contention. USF needs two victories in last three games to become bowl eligible for the seventh straight season.

  • At Syracuse (Nov. 11)
  • Vs. Louisville (Nov. 25)
  • Vs. West Virginia (Dec. 1)