Weekend Warriors

On a week the Big East found itself reeling because of the announced departure of Notre Dame, in the conference for all sports but football, it was the gridiron schools that gave the league its swagger back with a 3-0 mark against the ACC.

On a week the Big East found itself reeling again because of the announced departure of Notre Dame, in the conference for all sports but football, it was the gridiron schools that gave the league its swagger back with a 5-0 mark — including 3-0 against the ACC.

The ACC and Big East have often been considered comparable leagues, and the Big East made its point that it has been better overall the last few years than the ACC after the Orange Bowl agreed to a deal to take the ACC champion while not extending an invitation to the Big East.

Pittsburgh, which opened the season with a loss to FCS Youngstown State, pummelled 13th-ranked Virginia Tech, 35-17, on Saturday. Connecticut slipped past Maryland, 24-21, after the Terrapins stunned Temple, and Louisville finished the Big East sweep by holding off North Carolina, 39-24.

The other two league wins were both against FCS teams and neither were impressive, Cincinnati defeating Delaware State, 23-7, and Syracuse outlasting Stony Brook, 28-17.

The play of the Owls' conference rivals this weekend certainly builds up the league profile, but what does it mean for Temple's chances of having a successful return to the Big East this season?

A few weeks ago, after The Opening losses by Pitt to Youngstown State and Penn State to Ohio, Temple started gaining attention for possibly being the best college football team in Pennsylvania.

But after the Owls' loss to Maryland, they enter this week's game against Penn State as nearly double-digit underdogs and the Panters' shocking win over the Hokies makes Temple's late-October trip to Pittsburgh look more challenging.

If the Owls don't knock off Penn State for the frst time in 70 years this week, they'll need five wins in their final eight games — all but one against teams in the Big East — to become bowl-eligible.

It's becoming clear the perception of the Big East of a deep league — albeit one without a top-10 team — is accurate. Overall, the Big East is 13-5 in non-league games this season.

Temple will open its Big East schedule in three weeks against South Florida, which lost at home to Rutgers a week after winning at Nevada. The Owls will be underdogs, but it will be close and they'll have the intangibles.

UConn probably rates a slight favorite over Temple because it will be home and beat Maryland, where the Owls did not.

Rutgers didn't look impressive in beating Tulane and Howard, but the win at USF made a statement. Cincinnati walloped Pittsburgh and Lousville's offense is explosive. Syracuse hung tough in losses to Northwestern and USC.

Asre there four wins there — plus one over Army in November — to keep the Owls playing into December?

As the coaches and players have mentioned and their pre-season ranking of last in the conference indicates, they don't expect to be favored in many of their games. But they don't expect to be heavy underdogs in too many either — and that includes this weekend's in-state battle after the Owls fell to Penn State, 14-10 a year ago.

What this past weekend showed is that the upcoming schedule is just as challenging as once thought — and maybe even more so.

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