Big East Football Preview: 11/28-29

Just two games are on tap for the Thanksgiving weekend, but they involve the two teams with BCS hopes.

Cincinnati's Magic Number Stands At One

Cincinnati and head coach Brian Kelly have hit some significant milestones in recent weeks – defeating BIG EAST rivals Louisville and West Virginia for the first time – and find themselves with a chance to make more history this weekend. At 5-1 in the conference, the Bearcats would clinch at least a share of their first BIG EAST championship if they get past Syracuse Saturday at Nippert Stadium. Cincinnati would be assured of the league's automatic bid to the Bowl Championship Series with a victory, while Syracuse – which rides the momentum from a thrilling come-from-behind win at Notre Dame last week – looks to play spoiler.

Saturday's game, which starts at noon Eastern, is the BIG EAST Network Game of the Week


But Don't Count Out West Virginia

West Virginia, which has won or shared two of the last three BIG EAST titles, still finds itself in position to claim a second straight championship. The Mountaineers would at least tie for the title with wins in their final two games (at Pittsburgh, vs. USF) and WVU can win the outright title and BCS bid with two wins coupled with a Cincinnati loss to Syracuse. The Mountaineers and Pittsburgh meet Friday at noon in the 101st edition of the Backyard Brawl at Heinz Field. The game can be seen on ABC Sports.


Three BIG EAST Players Named Academic All-America

Three BIG EAST players have been chosen as ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America selections as chosen by the College Sports Information Directors of America. Syracuse offensive guard Ryan Durand, Pittsburgh kicker Conor Lee and West Virginia defensive end Doug Slavonic were all second team selections. Durand holds a 3.74 grade-point average as a health and exercise science major. Lee, a graduate student, earned a 3.71 undergraduate GPA in economics and business, while Slavonic carries a 3.48 GPA in finance. McAfee Just One Of The Guys West Virginia's Pat McAfee has been chosen as one of three finalists for the Ray Guy Award, which goes to the top punter in college football. The other finalists are Matt Fodge of Oklahoma State and Louie Sakoda from Utah. The award will be presented as part of the Home Depot College Football Awards Show Dec. 11 on ESPN.


CINCINNATI vs Syracuse
Sat 11/22
7:15 PM
ESPN2
Saturday's game will be the ninth meeting between Syracuse and Cincinnati and it will break a 4-4 deadlock in the series ... The Bearcats have taken four of the last five meetings, including two straight at Nippert Stadium ... Last year's matchup began as a shootout, with a combined 52 points on the board after the first play of the third quarter ... Cincinnati went on to take a 52-31 win at the Carrier Dome behind four Ben Mauk touchdown passes, including three to Marcus Barnett... Syracuse QB Andrew Robinson threw for more than 419 yards and three TDs.

Cincinnati took control of the BIG EAST title race by registering its fourth straight win -- a 28-21 decision against Pittsburgh ... A Cincinnati win against Syracuse or a West Virginia loss in either of the Mounatineers' final two games gives the Bearcats the BIG EAST's automatic Bowl Championship Series bid ... Cincinnati can still win the BIG EAST title outright, finish in a two-, three- or four-way tie for the title, or could finish second to West Virginia ... Cincinnati wins any potential tiebreakers with the remaining contending teams ... QB Tony Pike has thrown 15 touchdown passes and just four interceptions since taking over as the starter ... Pike is the highest rated BIG EAST passer with a 147.7 efficiency rating ... WR Dominick Goodman ranks second in the BIG EAST in both receptions (6.4 per game) and receiving yards (82.1 ypg) ... WR Mardy Giyard is third in both categories (5.1 rpg, 78.9 ypg) ... The duo has a combined 16 touchdown catches.

Syracuse delivered its best performance of the season in Saturday's 24-23 win at Notre Dame ... The Orange look for back-to-back wins to close a season for the first time since 2001, when Syracuse won the Insight.com Bowl against Kansas State after defeating Boston College in the regular-season finale ... The 2001 season also marks the last time Syracuse scored back-to-back road wins, as the Orange won at Pittsburgh Oct. 13 and at Virginia Tech Oct. 27 ... RB Curtis Brinkley is ranked fourth in the BIG EAST in rushing (100.4 ypg) ... Brinkley has rushed for 1,104 yards and seven touchdowns ... DT Arthur Jones had 15 tackles against Notre Dame last week -- the most by a BIG EAST down lineman this season ... Jones ranks fourth in the BIG EAST in tackles for loss (1.18 per game) ... LB Jake Flaherty has a team high 71 tackles, good for 10th in the BIG EAST ... Saturda's game will be the last for head coach Greg Robinson on the Syracuse sideline.


CONNECTICUT Open Date
Next Game
Sat 12/6
vs. Pitt
 

LOUISVILLE Open Date
Next Game
Thu 12/4
at Rutgers
 

PITTSBURGH vs. West Virginia
Fri 11/28
12:00 PM
ABC
The most-played series among current BIG EAST members, the Pittsburgh/ West Virginia rivalry convenes for the 101st time Friday in the annual Backyard Brawl ... The series dates to Oct. 26, 1895, and since then, the Panthers have built a 60-37-3 advantage against the Mountaineers ... The schools have met every year since 1943 ... Last year's meeting saw Pittsburgh use two Conor Lee field goals and a Pat Bostick touchdown run to score a 13-9 win against then-No. 2 West Virginia, denying the Mountaineers a spot in the BCS National Championship Game.

West Virginia picked up its all-important seventh win with a 35-21 decision against Louisville last Saturday ... The Mountaineers can still win the BIG EAST championship outright, but would have to win its remaining two games (at Pittsburgh, home against USF) and see Cincinnati lose to Syracuse Saturday ... West Virginia can also finish in a two-, three- or four-team tie for the BIG EAST title, but would not win any tiebreakers for the conference's BCS bid ... West Virginia has won five straight BIG EAST road games ... The Mountaineers are 57-1 since 2000 when scoring 30 or more points ... West Virginia is 32-7 with Pat White as the starting quarterback ... White became the NCAA's career rushing leader for quarterbacks in last week's win against Louisville ... White enters Friday's game with 4,292 career rushing yards ... RB Noel Devine is third in the BIG EAST in rushing (112.1 ypg) and is averaging a conference-best 6.8 yards per carry.

Pittsburgh suffered its first road loss of the season with Saturday's 28-21 setback at Cincinnati ... The Panthers need to win their remaining two games (West Virginia, at Connecticut) and see Cincinnati lose to Syracuse Saturday to forge a tie for the BIG EAST title ... The loss to Cincinnati eliminated Pittsburgh from contention for the BIG EAST's automatic BCS bid ... Pitt has blocked a school record nine kicks in 10 games -- three PATs, three field goals and three punts ... S Andrew Taglianetti has all three blocked punts, while DE Greg Romeus has all three blocked PATs ... Pittsburgh ranks first nationally in red zone offense, having scored on 95 percent of its trips (37 of 39) ... The Panthers rank sixth nationally in fewest penalty yards (34.6 per game) ... RB LeSean McCoy is the BIG EAST's second-leading rusher (112.5 ypg) and has 18 rushing touchdowns ... LB Scott McKillop has 106 tackles.


RUTGERS Open Date
Next Game
Thu 12/4
vs. Louisville
 

SYRACUSE at Notre Dame
Sat 11/22
2:30 PM
NBC
Saturday's game will be the ninth meeting between Syracuse and Cincinnati and it will break a 4-4 deadlock in the series ... The Bearcats have taken four of the last five meetings, including two straight at Nippert Stadium ... Last year's matchup began as a shootout, with a combined 52 points on the board after the first play of the third quarter ... Cincinnati went on to take a 52-31 win at the Carrier Dome behind four Ben Mauk touchdown passes, including three to Marcus Barnett ... Syracuse QB Andrew Robinson threw for more than 419 yards and three TDs.

Cincinnati took control of the BIG EAST title race by registering its fourth straight win -- a 28-21 decision against Pittsburgh ... A Cincinnati win against Syracuse or a West Virginia loss in either of the Mounatineers' final two games gives the Bearcats the BIG EAST's automatic Bowl Championship Series bid ... Cincinnati can still win the BIG EAST title outright, finish in a two-, three- or four-way tie for the title, or could finish second to West Virginia ... Cincinnati wins any potential tiebreakers with the remaining contending teams ... QB Tony Pike has thrown 15 touchdown passes and just four interceptions since taking over as the starter ... Pike is the highest rated BIG EAST passer with a 147.7 efficiency rating ... WR Dominick Goodman ranks second in the BIG EAST in both receptions (6.4 per game) and receiving yards (82.1 ypg) ... WR Mardy Giyard is third in both categories (5.1 rpg, 78.9 ypg) ... The duo has a combined 16 touchdown catches.

Syracuse delivered its best performance of the season in Saturday's 24-23 win at Notre Dame ... The Orange look for back-to-back wins to close a season for the first time since 2001, when Syracuse won the Insight.com Bowl against Kansas State after defeating Boston College in the regular-season finale ... The 2001 season also marks the last time Syracuse scored back-to-back road wins, as the Orange won at Pittsburgh Oct. 13 and at Virginia Tech Oct. 27 ... RB Curtis Brinkley is ranked fourth in the BIG EAST in rushing (100.4 ypg) ... Brinkley has rushed for 1,104 yards and seven touchdowns ... DT Arthur Jones had 15 tackles against Notre Dame last week -- the most by a BIG EAST down lineman this season ... Jones ranks fourth in the BIG EAST in tackles for loss (1.18 per game) ... LB Jake Flaherty has a team high 71 tackles, good for 10th in the BIG EAST ... Saturday's game will be the last for head coach Greg Robinson on the Syracuse sideline.


USF Open Date
Next Game
Sat 12/6
at West Virginia
 

WEST VIRGINIA at Pittsburgh
Fri 11/28
12:00 PM
ABC
The most-played series among current BIG EAST members, the Pittsburgh/ West Virginia rivalry convenes for the 101st time Friday in the annual Backyard Brawl ... The series dates to Oct. 26, 1895, and since then, the Panthers have built a 60-37-3 advantage against the Mountaineers ... The schools have met every year since 1943 ... Last year's meeting saw Pittsburgh use two Conor Lee field goals and a Pat Bostick touchdown run to score a 13-9 win against then-No. 2 West Virginia, denying the Mountaineers a spot in the BCS National Championship Game.

West Virginia picked up its all-important seventh win with a 35-21 decision against Louisville last Saturday ... The Mountaineers can still win the BIG EAST championship outright, but would have to win its remaining two games (at Pittsburgh, home against USF) and see Cincinnati lose to Syracuse Saturday ... West Virginia can also finish in a two-, three- or four-team tie for the BIG EAST title, but would not win any tiebreakers for the conference's BCS bid ... West Virginia has won five straight BIG EAST road games ... The Mountaineers are 57-1 since 2000 when scoring 30 or more points ... West Virginia is 32-7 with Pat White as the starting quarterback ... White became the NCAA's career rushing leader for quarterbacks in last week's win against Louisville ... White enters Friday's game with 4,292 career rushing yards ... RB Noel Devine is third in the BIG EAST in rushing (112.1 ypg) and is averaging a conference-best 6.8 yards per carry.

Pittsburgh suffered its first road loss of the season with Saturday's 28-21 setback at Cincinnati ... The Panthers need to win their remaining two games (West Virginia, at Connecticut) and see Cincinnati lose to Syracuse Saturday to forge a tie for the BIG EAST title ... The loss to Cincinnati eliminated Pittsburgh from contention for the BIG EAST's automatic BCS bid ... Pitt has blocked a school record nine kicks in 10 games -- three PATs, three field goals and three punts ... S Andrew Taglianetti has all three blocked punts, while DE Greg Romeus has all three blocked PATs ... Pittsburgh ranks first nationally in red zone offense, having scored on 95 percent of its trips (37 of 39) ... The Panthers rank sixth nationally in fewest penalty yards (34.6 per game) ... RB LeSean McCoy is the BIG EAST's second-leading rusher (112.5 ypg) and has 18 rushing touchdowns ... LB Scott McKillop has 106 tackles.


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