It has certainly been a surprising week in the Big East!
Dave Wannstedt's Pitt Panthers choked away an easily winnable game when they couldn't handle a momentum shift late -- wait a minute, Wannstedt teams always do that. Okay, then: Rutgers failed to generate any offense and Syracuse did just enough to win a low-scoring squeaker -- no, it's been like that every game this season for these two. Dang. South Florida won in overtime as -- no, wait, they've never lost in overtime. Cincinnati dropped into last place thanks to -- no, other than the last two seasons that's not at all shocking
Come to think of it, this week in the Big East has not been surprising at all. But that's beside the point. After the jump are updated Big East championship scenarios for each school. Except you, Rutgers. Sorry, but you're out of the race. Best you can do is a five-way tie for first at 4-3, and a "conference co-champions" banner, like Rice and Baylor have from the 1994 Southwest Conference season where ineligible Texas A&M won by two and a half games.Your up-to-the-nanosecond Big East standings are:
Pittsburgh 3-1, 5-4
Syracuse 4-2, 7-3
South Florida 3-2, 6-3
West Virginia 2-2, 6-3
Connecticut 2-2, 5-4
Louisville 2-3, 5-5
Rutgers 1-3, 4-5
Cincinnati 1-3, 3-6
All joking aside, this week's games really did thin the field. Louisville, Rutgers and Cincinnati dropped to three league losses and are all but out of the race, other than an Armageddon scenario. Since Armageddon is fun, let's talk about that now.
Armageddon will occur if no team in the Big East gets to five league wins. If any team gets to 5-2, the biggest tie that can happen is a three-way tie, and those aren't too hard to sort out. If no one gets to five wins, then at least four and as many as six Big East teams will be tied for first place at 4-3. I've run tiebreakers for all possible four-way ties, but only a couple five-way or more scenarios. Keep that in mind as you read each team's report: there are some 5- and 6-way ties not accounted for (about 5.5% of all possible scenarios) which have to be won by someone.
One other thing: there are some three-way ties that will have to be settled by the BCS poll. According to Big East rules (as I remember them from previous seasons), if three teams are tied and those teams are 1-1 against each other, the BCS bid goes to the team with the highest BCS ranking. I did not try predict who that would be. But bear in mind that remaining non-conference games (Syracuse vs Boston College and USF at Miami) will be a factor.
Here is each team's report, in order of likelihood of winning the BCS bid:
PITTSBURGH: Despite the loss to UConn, Pitt still controls its own destiny. If they win their last three games, they win the Big East outright, regardless of any other results.
If Pitt wins its next two games, they win the BCS bid unless UConn also wins all its remaining games. So the Panthers can clinch it with a win at USF and one in the Backyard Brawl win on November 26, if Syracuse beats UConn the week before, or Cincy beats the Huskies the day after. But we all know how good Pitt is at taking care of business.
If Pitt loses a game, they still win the BCS bid as long as no one else has 5 wins, or Syracuse is the only team who does. They can lose any of their three remaining games and still win the BCS bid, but they would then need help. They need to hope that the team they lose to (USF or WVU) doesn't win out, since that team would then hold a tiebreaker vs. Pitt, or plunge the league into a three-way tie with Syracuse that would have to be broken by BCS ranking.
There are two possible combinations of results (out of 1024) where Pitt wins a four-way tiebreaker at 4-3. For this to happen the Panthers would have to beat USF, lose to WVU and Cincinnati, and have 6 of the 7 other remaining games break a certain way.
CONNECTICUT: UConn's chances of winning the Big East are better than you think. Their losses were to teams that aren't really in the race (Rutgers and Louisville) and their wins are over teams that are (WVU and Pitt). Since head-to-head results are the primary tiebreaker, UConn already holds tiebreakers with anyone they might end up tied with.
If UConn wins out, and Pitt loses one game, UConn wins the Big East. It's that simple for Edsall's squad.
If they lose a game -- and it can't be against Syracuse -- there are 11 ways UConn could win a four-way tie at 4-3. They also win some 5-way ties.
SYRACUSE: Syracuse's chances of winning the Big East are worse than you think. Because they've already lost to PItt, they pretty much need Pitt to lose twice. However, if that happens, and Syracuse wins its last league game against UConn, the Orange need no other help. The only teams they could be tied with are USF and/or West Virginia, both of whom the Orange defeated.
There's also one combination of results where Syracuse can win the BCS bid in a four-way tie at 4-3.
SOUTH FLORIDA: And now, the moment we've all been waiting for, since this is a USF blog... what has to happen for USF to win the Big East?
1. USF must beat Pitt and UConn.
2. UConn must beat Syracuse.
3. West Virginia must lose one game. Any of their three remaining league games will do.
If those three things happen... book your non-refundables, baby, we're going to Tempe. Or maybe Miami. Or New Orleans. Goddamn BCS, making us wait until the last minute.
If these things happen, USF would be the only 5-2 team, or USF and Pitt would be 5-2 and USF would win the tiebreaker by virtue of head-to-head victory.
If Syracuse beats UConn next Saturday, USF is pretty much dead. Syracuse would be 5-2 and USF, who lost to Syracuse, could do no better than 5-2. However, there could still be a three-way also involving Pitt at 5-2, which would have to be decided by BCS ranking since the teams would be 1-1 against each other. USF could plausibly win this tiebreaker... though, oddly, the non-conference game with Miami would be a factor. As would Syracuse's non-league game with Boston College.
WEST VIRGINIA: Not entirely dead, but deader than you think. They're the opposite of UConn; they've got losses to all the wrong teams. They beat USF, and they would beat Pitt in any 5-2 scenario. But the Mountaineers need Syracuse and UConn to take a third loss.
For WVU to win the Big East:
1. WVU must win its three remaining league games against Louisville, Pitt, and Rutgers.
2. UConn must beat Syracuse.
3. UConn must lose to USF or Cincinnati.
If these things happen, WVU would be the only team at 5-2 and win the league outright, or be tied with the Pitt/USF winner at 5-2. WVU would win head-to-head tiebreaker against one or both of those teams. (I know the Pitt-WVU game hasn't been played yet, but WVU must win it for this scenario to be possible. Therefore we can safely give WVU the tiebreaker edge here.)
As with USF, if Syracuse beats UConn, WVU could end up in a three-way tie with Pitt and Syracuse that would have to be resolved by BCS poll. So an Orange win over the Huskies doesn't completely eliminate WVU. In fact, they may be the best positioned, since they have the best name recognition of any Big East team and would be 9-3, on a four-game win streak, and no late-season non-league games they could lose.
Okay then. Those are the five teams with a realistic shot at winning the league. Before moving on to the more outlandish possibilities, please take a moment to view the following informative video:
LOUISVILLE: Needs this exact set of results: Rutgers beats Cincinnati. UConn beats Syracuse. USF beats Pitt. Louisville beats West Virginia and Rutgers. West Virginia beats Pitt. Cincinnati beats UConn. Pitt beats Cincy. UConn beats USF. Rutgers beats WVU.
If all these things happen, Louisville ends up in a four-way tie at 4-3 with UConn, Syracuse, and USF.
The Big East tiebreaker in this situation is to create a "mini conference" among teams in the tie. The mini-conference standings would be UConn and Louisville 2-1, USF and Syracuse 1-2. The two-way tiebreaker would then apply; Louisville beat UConn, so they win the tiebreaker.
Now all you Cardinal fans know who to root for.
CINCINNATI: Needs this exact set of results: Cincy beats Rutgers, UConn beats Syracuse, Louisville beats West Virginia, Pitt beats USF, Rutgers beats Louisville, WVU beats Pitt, Cincy beats UConn and Pitt, UConn beats USF, Rutgers beats WVU.
If all that happens, Cincinnati, UConn, Pitt, and Syracuse would all be 4-3. Cincinnati and UConn are 2-1 against teams in this four-team "mini conference", and Cincy beat UConn. So the Bearcats would make their third straight BCS trip.
If that seems unfeasible, look at it this way: Cincinnati has a better chance of making a BCS game than 75% of the teams in Division I-A.
ARMAGEDDON: As stated earlier, there is a 5.5% chance that the Big East will end in a 5- or 6-way tie of 4-3 teams. There are too many possibilities to analyze, so let's just say that UConn, Louisville, and even Rutgers have more of a chance than stated above. If nothing else, everyone is still in play for a share of a BCS conference championship, which looks nice in your banner collection. How many teams have BCS conference championships? Not many, folks. Not many. But this year almost all of us could get one.