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Big East Football: Syracuse, USF and UConn Have High Hopes

The Big East is a mess entering Week 12. It may not get clearer entering Week 13. But, that's what makes it fun.

There's no way the Big East Conference football season can get any crazier. Right?

With three weeks remaining, the eight-team league has five squads that remaining legitimate title contenders.

Big East Conference Standings

(updated 11.14.2010 at 1:44 AM EST)

That's not mentioning that the conference's first-place team (Pittsburgh) has yet to become bowl eligible, while three other opponents have (Syracuse, South Florida and West Virginia).

Also, the team with possibly the best shot of chasing down Pittsburgh for the league title (Connecticut), began its conference games by losing to two teams with a combined conference record of 3-6.

Did I mention that last year's champion is in last place?

So what if the league doesn't play fundamental, Vince Lombardi football? Last week's batch of games -- though very ugly at times -- produced three very fan-friendly endings.

On Thursday, Connecticut squeaked out a 30-28 victory against Pittsburgh. Saturday's crop of games featured USF beating Louisville, 24-21, in overtime and then Syracuse edging Rutgers, 13-10, which created an Animal House-like log jam in the standings where everyone thinks they're the favorites to win the Big East BCS bowl bid.

"USF is about to play Pitt on Saturday at Raymond James Stadium, and it is bigger than any of the 161 previous games in Bulls' history," wrote Joe Henderson of the Tampa Tribune on Thursday. "If they win against the team currently leading the conference, the Bulls will be tied for first with one Big East game to play. This team could wind up in the Fiesta Bowl."

Desmond Conner of the Hartford Courant wrote this after the Huskies win against the Panthers:

"The Huskies are in the hunt, just not over the hump. But are the Hustkies hitting their stride, the stride some expected but instead saw the Huskies slip into a 1-2 hole?"

"Now Syracuse, Cincinnati and South Florida await. Only one is at home where UConn is 5-0 this season, but the Big East title, which seemed like an afterthought a few weeks ago, is still up for grabs."

Syracuse Post-Standard writer Nolan Weidner broke down SU's chances on Thursday:

"If there's a three-way tie with Pitt and either USF or WVU being involved, the head-to-head couldn't be used because the teams would be 1-1 against each other."

"Nick Carparelli, the Big East senior associate commissioner in charge of football, said the next tie-breaker in that scenario is a team's BCS ranking."

"The BCS doesn't release standing beyond the Top 25, but SU is currently 37th, ahead of West Virgnia, Sourth Florida and Pitt."

Okay. I wouldn't say everyone is happy about the conference standings.

"A month ago (West Virginia head coach Bill) Stewart pretty much shuddered at the thought his team was the best in the Big East and the early favorite to win the conference," wrote Mike Casazza of the Charleston Daily Mail on Thursday.

"The Mountaineers chose a most cruel way to support his skepticism with consecutive losses."

And despite winning its first three league games by 17 points or more, first-place Pittsburgh isn't so sure about the future.

"(After) a three-game winning streak and a two-game lead in the Big East, everyone universally just held their breath and waited for the "hiccup" game," wrote Paul Zeise of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Tuesday. "I'll say this - the thing that is missing from this team and program is that killer instinct, the winning edge, the confidence to take the field every week and know you are going to win. This team always has some sort of reason it can't win "we're young," we're injured, "we're on the road", etc., etc."

Though the conference race did become a bit clearer last week, there is still a lot of football to be played.

The Syracuse-UConn match up, Saturday, at the Carrier Dome (7 p.m. on ESPNU) will basically eliminate one of those two teams.

Also, if the Panthers knock off the Bulls on the road (noon on ESPN2), they knock out USF and make it a three-team race (if West Virginia wins at Louisville). However, if the reverse happens then FOUR teams are very, very much alive entering Week 13. That means with two weeks to go and match ups like: West Virginia-Pittsburgh (Week 13) and UConn-USF (Week 14). Anything is possible.

It may not be pretty and possibly is a bit nutty but that explains the 2010-11 season in the Big East. Be glad you're just watching.