Week 5 big for Big East teams' confidence

In the latest ESPN Stats & Info conference power rankings, the Big East remains stuck in eighth place, behind the six BCS auto-bid leagues, the Mountain West and even the WAC. One thing the Big East can say, though, is this: At least we're not the Sun Belt!

Well, the conference can say that for now. Saturday brings three Big East vs. Sun Belt matchups: South Florida vs. Florida Atlantic, Pitt vs. Florida International and Louisville vs. Arkansas State. If the Big East doesn't handle its business against those opponents (combined record: 2-8) then we'd hate to see next week's conference rankings.

That silly side note aside, Week 5 isn't very compelling, especially coming on the heels of last week's monster nonconference weekend featuring games against Oklahoma, LSU, Miami and North Carolina. Connecticut is the only team playing a BCS team, and it is an SEC program. Exhale. It's only Vanderbilt.

While this week may lack juice, it is big for one reason: for some teams, it's the last chance to gain some confidence and momentum heading into league play.

The backloaded nature of the Big East schedule means it will be the last FBS conference to open league action next week. Connecticut and Rutgers will start things off next Friday night, with Syracuse and South Florida to follow the next day. (The Orange catch a little bit of a schedule break, with an off week to prepare for their conference opener in Tampa.)

The way things have gone so far in the nonconference schedule, the Big East looks wide open from top to bottom. Any team that can gain a little momentum heading into league play may have an advantage.

"That's definitely important," UConn receiver Kashif Moore said. "You want to make sure you have a lot of confidence and some wins going into those games."

So while this weekend's slate has a lackluster feel, pay close attention to which teams seem to be figuring things out. UConn still is trying to improve its passing game with new starting quarterback Cody Endres. Rutgers is just trying to get anything going offensively. South Florida is working back injured receivers into the mix in hopes of ushering in its air attack. Pitt can't afford another slip-up before going to Notre Dame and then opening its league action.

You can't call Week 5 "Showdown Saturday" or "Monster Saturday" or anything like that in the Big East. It's more like, "Tune-Up Saturday."

"It will be big for us to polish up things and get ready for the Big East," South Florida running back Demetris Murray said.

And taking care of the Sun Belt first would be nice, too.