The Big East Week

Hurricanes have caused much suffering this year, but one hurricane may have given the Big East an event that will catch the attention of the entire country, an exciting regular season finale for all the marbles. Here's the Big East bowl picture for this week.

The Bowls
The Big East Champion will receive an automatic invitation to a BCS Bowl. The following bowls will invite teams in order:

- The Toyota Gator Bowl (Jan 2 at 12:30PM in Jacksonville, FL vs. the ACC 2nd Place Team)
- The Insight Bowl (Dec. 27 at 8:30PM in Phoenix, AZ vs. the PAC-10 4th Place Team)
- The Meineke Car Care Bowl (Dec. 31 at 11:00AM in Charlotte, NC vs. an ACC Team)
- ** The Motor City Bowl (Dec. 26 at 4:00PM in Detroit, MI vs. a MAC Team)

Bowls are not required to select teams according to their finish in the Big East, but can not select a team with more than 1 fewer losses than another unselected team. If Notre Dame (5-2) is bowl eligible and is not picked for a BCS Bowl, the Gator, Insight or Meineke Bowls can select the Irish over a Big East team.

The Motor City Bowl would select a Bowl-Eligible Big East Team only if the Big 10 does not have seven Bowl Eligible teams. This is not expected to happen this year.

To see the Bowl picture for all the Division 1A teams, visit:
Bowl Chase

The Big East
The Big East bowl picture is still murky, primarily due to South Florida which has only played three Big East opponents so far. Two important conference games are scheduled for December 3rd (West Virginia at South Florida and Louisville at Connecticut), so the bowl situation probably won't be settled until the last day of the season.

West Virginia (7-1, 4-0)
West Virginia has three remaining games at Cincinnati and South Florida and hosting Pittsburgh and are undefeated in league play. They are Bowl Eligible and can clinch First Place in the league and the BCS Bowl bid that comes with that rank with two wins and any South Florida loss. West Virginia is firmly in control of their destiny with only South Florida having a realistic chance of stealing first place.

South Florida (4-3, 2-1)

Due to a late league schedule and a postponed game against West Virginia due to Hurricane Wilma, South Florida has yet to play most of their league schedule, yet they already have a stranglehold on second place in the conference. With wins over Louisville and Rutgers already behind them, the surprising Bulls control their own destiny. Their remaining games are at Syracuse and at UConn and at home against Cincinnati and West Virginia. Both UConn and Cincinnati are very good at home and may present problems for the Bulls, but they can clinch second place by winning any three of their remaining games and will go to the BCS if they sweep the rest of their games.

With both South Florida and West Virginia having relatively easy games in November, their match-up, which was postponed to December 3rd due to Hurricane Wilma is expected to decide first and second place in the Big East. The first place team will receive the BCS bid and the second place team may be selected by the Gator Bowl.

Rutgers (6-3, 3-2)
Rutgers hurt their Big East position with their loss to South Florida. Rutgers has two games remaining, at Louisville and will host Cincinnati. The Scarlet Knights are already bowl eligible and have tie-breakers over Pitt and UConn, and can guarantee a top-4 conference finish with one more win. With losses to West Virginia and South Florida, the Team on the Banks will need to defeat Louisville and get help elsewhere to finish the season better than 3rd place. The Star Ledger's Tom Lucci reported this week that an Insight Bowl official has all but guaranteed Rutgers a bid with a 7-4 finish, but it would not be surprising for the Fiesta Bowl committee (which runs the Insight Bowl) to change their minds if Louisville fails to receive a Gator Bowl bid. Pittsburgh, UConn or Cincinnati could sneak into third or fourth place over Rutgers.

Louisville (6-2, 2-2)
Louisville still must host Rutgers and Syracuse and travel to UConn. They are bowl eligible, but have suffered losses to South Florida and West Virginia. Louisville needs to win this Friday's game against Rutgers to have any realistic hope of finishing in the top 3. Their only chance to advance higher depends on either South Florida or West Virginia losing.

Rutgers and Louisville need to watch Pittsburgh, UConn and Cincinnati. Those are the teams that are not yet eligible to compete in a bowl but can still become eligible. If Notre Dame goes to the BCS and none of those teams are eligible, Rutgers and Louisville will automatically gain bowl bids. Louisville and Rutgers can each clinch top-4 positions with 4 conference wins.

Pittsburgh (4-5, 3-2)
The reigning Big East Champions have two games remaining, UConn and the annual Backyard Brawl at West Virginia on Thanksgiving. They need to win both games to be be bowl eligible, but if they do, they will have tie-breakers over South Florida and West Virginia and could finish as high as first place. On the other side of the coin, both are difficult games, and Pittsburgh will probably drop one to stay home this bowl season.

University of Connecticut (4-4, 1-3)
UConn has a difficult schedule ahead of them with games remaining at Pitt and at home against South Florida and Louisville. They need to win two more games to be bowl eligible and due to tie-breakers can do no better than third place in the Big East. UConn, too, probably won't be playing in a bowl this year.

Cincinnati (4-4, 2-2)
Cincinnati has a very tough remaining schedule, hosting West Virginia and traveling to South Florida and Rutgers. They need to win two of those games to be bowl eligible and will need to win all three to finish over 5th place. Cincinnati probably won't be going bowling this year, but with most pre-season projections placing them in last place in the Big East, their wins over UConn and Syracuse give them hope going into the off-season.

Syracuse (1-7, 0-5)
Syracuse will not be eligible to attend a bowl this rebuilding year. They have remaining games against USF and Notre Dame before closing a disappointing season at Louisville. Considering that Syracuse's remaining opponents have a combined record of 16-7, it is very likely that Orange fans will taste the same bitter taste that Rutgers fans did in 1936 (1-6-1), 1997 (0-11), 1999 (1-10) and 2002 (1-11).

Notre Dame (6-2)
Notre Dame is not a football member of the Big East, but the Big East bowls can take Notre Dame over another team as long as they are Bowl Eligible and are not invited to the BCS. The Fighting Irish achieved bowl eligibility this past weekend with a win over Tennessee and have winnable remaining games against Navy, Syracuse and at Stanford. To be eligible for an at-large slot in the BCS, Notre Dame must finish in the top 12 in the BCS standings and achieve a 9-3 record (according to The latest BCS poll has Notre Dame at 11th place.

The Big East Bowl Future
The Big East has an uncertain future due to a declining number of bowl associations.

There have been shrill calls in the sporting press over the past few years for the Big East to lose their guaranteed BCS bowl entry. Under the current BCS rules, a conference stands to lose their automatic BCS bid if the conference champion does not achieve an average of 12th place over a 4 year period. Since Louisville's top 10 ranking last year has been counted as belonging to the Big East, there is no immediate concern, but Pitt was not a top 12 team last year and so far West Virginia has achieved no better than 14th place in the BCS standings this season. If the Big East does not turn this state of affairs around and produce a few top 10 teams, the calls for their removal from the BCS will probably intensify and the BCS may feel pressured to change the rules.

The Gator and Insight Bowls have already announced that they will be partly leaving the Big East, taking Big 12 teams instead in 2006 and 2008. There is a possibility that the Sun Bowl may fill in by taking a Big East team in those years, but the future of these relationships remains uncertain.

Earlier this year, the New York Jets, New York City and the Big East announced the creation of The Big Apple Bowl starting in 2008 in the new Jets Manhattan stadium. The stadium project and subsequently the bowl plans were scrapped, but the planned Giants-Jets Stadium in New Jersey may still host a bowl. Much depends on the Giants and Jets adding a roof to their plans for the stadium.

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