And then there was one. Nine weeks into the season, Louisville is the sole undefeated team left in the New Big East. We all knew that that Highlander rules applied, but I don’t think anyone foresaw a couple of MAC teams wielding the swords that would lop the zeroes off of the records of Rutgers and Cincinnati. A week after Cincinnati fell to Toledo, Rutgers hosted Kent State and became the first ranked team the Golden Flashes beat in the history of the program – some 92 years.
Despite the disappointing out of conferences losses, it’s fair to say that the New Big East is doing better than most would have forecast before the season. In fact, Louisville checks in at #10 in the latest BCS rankings, while Boise at #19 just needs to keep winning and will likely finish inside the top 16. It’s something of the dawn of a new era for Boise State, as evidenced by comments from CNNSI writer Stewart Mandel:
— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) October 28, 2012
Yup – Boise has transitioned from BCS buster to riding on the coattails of past success. At this point it doesn’t even matter that Nevada spent 60 minutes shoveling dirt on its pride against Air Force last Friday night. The Broncos simply need to keep winning and a BCS bowl should take care of itself. The Statue of Liberty play seems like a lifetime ago, doesn’t it?
Click on through to the rankings!
1. Louisville (8-0)
Last Week #2; This Week: Won 34-31 (OT) vs. Cincinnati
After a one-week absence from the top spot, Louisville has reclaimed the lead and is in the driver’s seat for the Big East title and a BCS bowl. While Teddy Bridgewater started slow, he finished with the hot hand he’s become known for with 416 yards passing and 2 TDs. Of course, nothing comes easy for the Cardinals. After rallying from 10 down in the 3rd, they took a 7-point lead on a great 64-yard catch-and-run by DeVante Parker with 1:56 to go. But Cincinnati stormed back with a TD of their own just 53 seconds later and sent the game to overtime. After a Munchie Legaux interception on Cincinnati’s possession, Louisville connected on a 30-yard field goal to win and bring home the Keg of Nails for the first time in 5 years. Temple is the next hurdle for Louisville, coming to town this Saturday (ABC, Noon).
2. Boise State (7-1)
Last Week #3; This Week: Won 45-14 @ Wyoming
I hemmed and hawed on Boise State vs. Rutgers at the #2 spot. It came down to the fact that both teams have excellent defenses but Boise has found a more stable offense of late. Bronco running back DJ Harper turned in another great performance, carrying 19 times for 105 yards and 2 TDs. Quarterback Joe Southwick continues to develop as a game-managing QB, passing efficiently and not putting his team in bad positions with turnovers. The win over Wyoming was the 48th in a row for Boise in the month of October – their last such loss was October 6th, 2001 at Rice. Their November schedule kicks off this weekend with a visit from SDSU (CBSSN, 10:30pm).
3. Rutgers (7-1)
Last Week #1; This Week: Lost 35-23 vs. Kent State
Kent State is a good team this year. They’re 7-1 and in the running for the MAC title. But this is the kind of game that Rutgers has to win and the kind of loss that helps perpetuate the stigma of Big East football. All the good they did by demolishing a (bad) Arkansas team on the road was undone by this loss. Rutgers QB Gary Nova threw 6 interceptions on the day, four of them in the first half, which was too much of an obstacle to overcome. Rutgers gets a chance to lick their wounds on a bye this week before hosting Army on the 10th.
4. Cincinnati (5-2)
Last Week #4; This Week: Lost 34-31 (OT) at Louisville
Munchie Legaux went public last week with his claim that he was the best quarterback in the Big East. But as the saying goes, pride comes before the fall, and so it went for Munchie in the big game at Louisville. He connected on less than half of his passes and threw three interceptions, the last in overtime and setting up the Cardinals to kick a field goal for the win. That winning field goal try was bailed out by Bearcats coach Butch Jones, who chose to go with the freeze-the-kicker timeout just before the ball sailed over the Cardinal holder’s head. Cincinnati will aim to send Syracuse to the ACC with another loss this weekend the the Orange come to town (BE Network, Noon).
5. UCF (6-2)
Last Week #5; This Week: Won 54-17 at Marshall
Halfway through their Conference-USA schedule, the Knights are on track to reach the conference title game. Their win at Marshall this week pushed them to 4-0 in-conference and gives them the tiebreaker over every team in the East division, save UAB, whom they play in the final game of the season. Most notable from this game were Quincy McDuffie’s two kickoff returns for touchdowns (97 and 98 yards) and Latavius Murray contributing 156 rushing yards and 3 TDs for the Knights. UCF hosts SMU this weekend (CBSSN, 7pm).
6. SDSU (6-3)
Last Week #6; This Week: Won 24-13 vs. UNLV
SDSU is the 5th NBE team to become bowl eligible this season (out of what I’m estimating to be a total of 8 bowl teams), getting their 6th win of the season against 1-win UNLV. Aztec running backs Adam Muema and Walter Kazee both had over 100 yards rushing – the 2nd time this year both have eclipsed the century mark in the same game. After giving up a 90-yard TD drive on the first series of the game, SDSU’s defense forced seven punts and a turnover on downs, but never put the game completely away thanks to 3 turnovers of their own. SDSU travels to Boise State this weekend for a nightcap game (CBSSN, 10:30pm).
7. Navy (5-3)
Last Week #7; This Week: Won 56-28 at ECU
Navy should try and schedule a road game at ECU every year. Two years after demolishing the Pirates 76-35, Navy turned a 14-14 tie halfway through the 2nd quarter into a 21-14 lead at the half. And then the Midshipmen scored touchdowns on their next 5 possessions to blow the game open in the 2nd half. Two days before being announced as a nominee for the Ray Guy award, Pablo Beltran didn’t even attempt a punt. Navy will play FAU this weekend, with a win locking up the Kraft bowl berth for the Midshipmen (CBSSN, 3:30pm).
8. SMU (4-4)
Last Week #9; This Week: Won 44-13 vs. Memphis
For the first time this year, the Mustangs put together back-to-back wins. But the second win came at the hands of an abysmal Memphis team and wasn’t put away until the fourth quarter. While SMU put up some gawdy numbers, including Zach Line rushing for 127 yards and Darius Johnson notching 141 receiving yards, the offense was stymied for most of the first half. The lone Mustang TD in the first two quarters came on a 5-yard drive after a Memphis fumble. Three other prolonged drives resulted in 2 field goals and a turnover on downs. SMU still has issues, but at least they’re winning the games they should (save for the Tulane embarrassment). With Southern Miss and Rice on the schedule, a bowl is still a real possibility, but next up is a visit from UCF (CBSSN, 7pm).
9. Houston (4-4)
Last Week #11; This Week: Won 45-35 vs. UTEP
Houston turned the ball over 9 times in their loss to SMU. The tables turned this week as the Cougars forced 6 turnovers by UTEP and rushed out to a 45-7 lead in the 3rd quarter. From that point Houston went into a clock-killing offense that only served to give UTEP more opportunities to score and draw closer. After their final score (a FG), Houston had 5 drives go for a total of 51 yards while UTEP picked up 4 touchdowns to close it to 10 points with 4:35 to go. But a failed onside kick sealed the win for Houston. The Cougars travel to ECU this weekend (FSN, Noon).
10. Temple (3-4)
Last Week #8; This Week: Lost 47-17 at Pitt
Temple had the bad luck of playing Pitt in the first game of the year where the Panthers actually looked like the team many expected them to be. Tino Sunseri threw for 321 yards and 3 TDs while Ray Graham had 109 yards rushing and 2 TDs. Temple’s Montel Harris rushed for 72 yards and a TD, but the Owls just couldn’t keep up with the Panthers. Given the remaining schedule, a bowl game is probably out of the question for Temple at this point as they’d need at least one win out of the Louisville/Cincinnati games. Louisville is up first this weekend (ABC, Noon).
11. USF (2-6)
Last Week #10; This Week: Lost 37-36 vs. Syracuse
I’m running out of ways to put lipstick on this pig. USF snatched defeat out of the jaws of victory against the Syracuse Orange, giving up the game-winning TD with 3 seconds left in the game. The good: Maikon Bonani kicking a school record 5 field goals and the offense churning out 369 yards rushing. The bad: Syracuse scored on every 2nd half possession. USF has now lost 11 of 12 Big East conference games dating to November 2010. Skip Holtz’s crew needs to win out to make a bowl. That task begins against UConn this weekend (ESPNU, 7pm).
12. UConn (3-5)
Last Week #12; This Week: Bye
UConn might have one more win than USF, but I’d still take the Bulls head-to-head. So UConn stays in the 12 spot this week after a bye. The Huskies have a little wiggle room to get to a bowl, needing 3 wins in their last four games. But with Pitt, Louisville, and Cincinnati closing out the season, they may as well treat their game at USF this weekend as a must win (ESPNU, 7pm).
13. Memphis (1-7)
Last Week #13; This Week: Lost 44-13 at SMU
The first team in the New Big East to be officially eliminated from postseason play, the Tigers did so in typical fashion. They made a game of it for about a half before the opposition pulled away. Memphis managed just 202 yards on a defense giving up an average of 440 yards per game. Add in a 10+ minute disadvantage in TOP, and you have a recipe for the 7th loss of the season. Memphis heads to Marshall this weekend (No TV, 2pm).