Another good week in the books for the New Big East. There were just three losses, with one of them being from a Big East conference game between Temple and UConn. The thirteen teams have a combined record of 46-31 and halfway through the season, there are nine teams sitting at .500 or better. Louisville and Rutgers are both bowl eligible, while Cincinnati will follow suit if they can win at Toledo this week. On the flip side, we’ll probably see Memphis become the first team eliminated from the postseason when they host UCF this weekend.
And to address the first BCS rankings that came out on Sunday. Rutgers is ahead of Louisville, thanks mostly to FIU, Kentucky, and Southern Miss being hideously awful. But there are 4 New Big East Teams in the Top 25, and with a loaded back half to the schedules, there’s a great chance for a team to go undefeated and finish in the Top 10. Boise fans are de facto Nevada fans, for they’ll need a quality win to finish out the season and bolster their shot at a BCS bowl. But it’s looking like they’ll just need to get to 16th in the standings, given that the Big Ten currently has no teams ranked.
On to the rankings!
1. Louisville (6-0)
Last Week #1; This Week: Won 45-35 @ Pitt
Louisville continues to show why they’re at the top of this list. Their third consecutive road game took them to Pittsburgh to face a Panthers team still trying to find their identity. Louisville struggled some in the first half, most notably having a punt blocked and returned for a touchdown, and went to the break down 21-17. But the Cardinals owned the 3rd quarter, rattling off three TDs in their first four possessions while shutting down Pitt until it was pretty much over. A garbage time TD by Pitt made the final score a little more respectable. Louisville got it done in the air (Teddy Bridgewater: 304 yds and a TD) and on the ground (Senorise Perry: 12 carries, 101 yds, 4 TDs; Jeremy Wright: 13 carries, 61 yds, 1 TD). This week Louisville is at home (first time since Sept 15th) to face a struggling USF team (ABC, 3:30pm).
2. Cincinnati (5-0)
Last Week #2; This Week Won 49-17 vs. Fordham
Like Louisville, Cincinnati had some difficulty in the first half and headed into the locker rooms nursing a 14-6 lead over 1-AA Fordham. Like Louisville, Cincinnati erupted in the second half, scoring on every one of their possessions to run away with a win. Perhaps the Bearcats were looking past their Patriot League foe (who was a fill in after TCU ditched late in the scheduling game), but Butch Jones clearly got them on track after halftime. Cincinnati takes its 10th ranked scoring defense (14.4 ppg) on the road to face a Toledo team that is averaging over 36 points a game (ESPN3, 7pm).
3. Rutgers (5-0)
Last Week #3; This Week: Won 23-15 vs. Syracuse
Defense wins games, and that is what Rutgers is riding on as they’ve hit the halfway point undefeated. Syracuse actually put up yards on a defense ranked 18th in yards allowed, but it’s that 3rd-ranked scoring defense that shone through, yielding just two touchdowns from over 400 yards of Orange offense. After a first half that saw both teams put seven points on the scoreboard, Duron Harmon’s 75-yard return of a blocked field goal gave the Scarlet Knights the lead for good early in the 3rd quarter. Rutgers faces Temple this weekend in Philadelphia (BEN/ESPN3, Noon).
4. Boise State (5-1)
Last Week #4; This Week: Won 20-10 vs. Fresno State
Fresno State provided what looks to be the sternest test for the Broncos before the season-ending game against Nevada. In years past, Boise has been known for aerial shows and defensive stops. While the defense continues to shine this year – these guys straight fly to every hit all game long – the passing game has shrunk with Kellen Moore’s departure. But the ground game has picked up, with D.J. Harper (122 yds, 1 TD) and Jay Ajayi (91 yds) accounting for 64% of the Bronco’s total offense Saturday. Boise begins a five game stretch of landmines this weekend at home vs. UNLV (NBCSN, 3:30pm).
5. UCF (4-2)
Last Week #5; This Week: Won 38-31 (OT) vs. Southern Miss
It’s really tough to differentiate between these next three teams, especially given the level of teams they have beaten this year. Take the Knights for example: they struggled to win vs. a winless Southern Miss that Boise crushed 40-14 last week. In fact, they let the Golden Eagles march down the field in the waning moments of regulation and had to stop them inside the 10 and hold them to a FG to tie. But for all of that, I still believe that UCF would beat Temple and SDSU, so they get the nod for the five spot. UCF heads to Memphis this weekend (CSS, 8pm).
6. Temple (3-2)
Last Week #7; This Week: Won 17-14 @ UConn
Last week I told you all about how Temple had won their first Big East conference game in a very long time. Well, they one-upped themselves this week by winning back-to-back Big East conference games for the first time in school history. UConn came into this game with a statistically dominant defense, but their run defense, which had yielded an average of just 85 yards per game, gave up 202 to the Owls on 49 rushes. I believe the Owls’ winning streak comes to an end this week when they host Rutgers (BEN/ESPN3, Noon).
7. SDSU (4-3)
Last Week #8; This Week: Won 38-14 vs. Colorado State
SDSU might have 4 wins, but they’re over 1-AA North Dakota and a trio of 1-A teams that have a combined 3 wins. And with UNLV and Wyoming still on the schedule, it’s wholly possible that they become bowl eligible over teams that will combine for less than 10 wins. But a win is a win, and this one against CSU was never in question as the Aztecs scored 31 unanswered after the Rams tied it up in the first quarter at 7-7. A much tougher test awaits this week in a visit to Nevada (CBSSN, 10:35pm).
8. Navy (3-3)
Last Week #9; This Week: Won 31-13 @ Central Michigan
The Midshipmen got halfway to bowl eligibility this week with a win over Central Michigan. Allow me to use this space to once more voice my support for every one of Navy’s road games to be on a Friday night. Saturday was immensely more enjoyable without the stress of a game mucking it all up. Plebe quarterback Keenan Reynolds acquitted himself well and will reprise his role of starter this week vs. Indiana (CBSSN, 3:30pm).
9. Houston (3-3)
Last Week #10; This Week: Won 39-17 vs. UAB
Much like SDSU, Houston has been able to capitalize on inferior competition. Since dropping the first three games of the season, they’ve strung together a three-game win streak thanks to an offense putting up an average of 600 yards and 40 points per game (and are up to 11th in the country in total offense). Houston should continue to benefit from a bad division in C-USA, starting with a trip to 2-4 SMU this weekend for a Thursday night game (FSN, 8pm).
10. UConn (3-4)
Last Week #6; This Week: Lost 17-14 vs. Temple
The game against Temple was one of lost opportunities for the Huskies, especially on special teams. Kicker Chad Christen was 0-for-4 on FG attempts and the offense stalled into six consecutive punts after their 2nd TD of the game. In fact, after gaining 192 yards on their first 3 drives, they gained just 194 over their remaining 13 drives in the game. A trip to Syracuse this Friday presents an excellent opportunity to get back to .500 (ESPN, 8pm)
11. USF (2-4)
Last Week #13; This Week: Bye
After somewhat unfairly dropping USF all the way to 13th in last weeks power rankings, they’ve settled in a more appropriate 11th after their bye week. Things don’t get any easier this week as they head to Louisville to take on the undefeated Cardinals (ABC, 3:30pm).
12. SMU (2-4)
Last Week #11; This Week: Lost 27-26 @ Tulane
This can’t be what June Jones had in mind when he left Hawaii. After nearly bolting for Arizona State last year, he has reached the midpoint of a dismal season with a loss to a Tulane team that is in the running for title of worst in D1-A. We could cite stats all we want, like SMU’s 2:1 advantage in TOP. But it comes down to the fact the defense couldn’t stop Tulane when it mattered. After a FG gave the Mustangs a 6-point lead with 1:22 to go in the game, Tulane was able to score the game winning TD under a minute later. SMU gets Houston at home this Thursday (FSN, 8pm).
13. Memphis (1-5)
Last Week #12; This Week: Lost 41-7 @ East Carolina
After a one-week reprieve in honor of their first win of the season, Memphis has claimed the mantle that is rightly theirs – the bottom of the NBE. There’s not much good to take away from this game for the Tigers. ECU scored 41 points before finally allowing Memphis on the board with less than 9 minutes left in the game. The team travels to UCF this weekend (CSS, 8pm).