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What to watch in the Big East: Week 12

1. Clarity or chaos: There appear to be five teams truly in the Big East race heading into the weekend. By Saturday night, we could be down to as few as two true contenders. Or there could be mass chaos and the race will look even more jumbled. The Syracuse-Connecticut and Pittsburgh-South Florida matchups will go a long way toward providing some answers. Pitt still has the one-game lead and just needs to hold serve. The loser of the Orange-Huskies duel is probably done.

2. Battling for bowls: The Big East race is the big thing, but there are still several teams scrambling to gain bowl eligibility. Louisville, Pittsburgh and Connecticut each need one more win to get to the magic six. A Cincinnati loss would eliminate the back-to-back BCS bowl participants from the postseason, while Rutgers still needs to find two more wins.

3. Pitt's purposefulness: Pittsburgh had a two-game cushion going into last week's game at Connecticut and proceeded to act like it. The Panthers were sloppy in several areas while losing to the Huskies, committing costly turnovers and penalties, getting gashed in the ground game and flopping in special teams. Now that the comfy lead is gone, Pitt needs to attack the rest of the schedule with a sense of urgency, starting Saturday at red-hot South Florida. Will the Panthers come out more focused and sharp this week with a lot to lose?

4. B.J. Daniels vs. the Pitt defense: Daniels and the Bulls offense were simply terrible last year at Heinz Field. Daniels threw only eight passes and had two intercepted in a 41-14 shellacking. The sophomore quarterback has been more consistent of late, but the Bulls have been winning with a lot of help from special teams. To beat Pitt, they'll probably have to hit some big plays in the passing game, and Daniels will see heavy pressure from ends Jabaal Sheard and Brandon Lindsey. Daniels hasn't had to win games lately so much as manage them, but he'll probably need to be at his best Saturday.

5. Jordan Todman vs. the Syracuse defense: Todman is coming off a spectacular 222-yard performance against Pitt, and Connecticut will ride its running game as much as possible. While the Orange defense has been excellent this year, it has been susceptible to the running game and ranks just fifth in the Big East in rush defense. Louisville backup Jeremy Wright ran for 98 yards and two touchdowns two weeks ago, while Jeremy Deering had 166 yards out of the Wildcat last week for Rutgers. UConn will get some yards on the ground. The key might be whether quarterback Zach Frazer can make anything happen if Syracuse sells out against the run and dares the Huskies to go over the top.

6. Home sour home?: One of the weirder splits you'll ever see is Syracuse's Big East record this year: 4-0 on the road, 0-2 at home. Orange fans are excited about this team's improvement, but very few of them have actually seen it in person. This is an important game that will have a major impact on the league race, so you'd expect an electric atmosphere in the Carrier Dome. Can Syracuse take advantage? Then again, Connecticut hasn't won a single game on the road this year and has been brutally bad at times away from home. If you offered both teams the choice of playing at a neutral site, they'd take it.

7. One-week wonder for West Virginia?: Did the Mountaineers really figure things out on offense in their 37-10 win over Cincinnati last week? Or did they just exploit what has been the worst defense in the Big East? This week should tell the tale, as West Virginia faces a Louisville defense that has been very stout for about the past month. The Cardinals usually tackle well and speed is not a problem, so the Mountaineers will have to do more than throw underneath and expect to break free. They'll likely need to get the running game churning, and Geno Smith has to avoid mistakes.

8. Rivalry resurfacing?: The West Virginia-Louisville series quickly became the best rivalry in the Big East -- who can forget that classic 2005 triple-overtime game in Morgantown, or the Thursday night thriller in 2006 at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium -- but it fizzled when the air went out of Louisville's program. The Cards aren't all the way back, but Charlie Strong has them on the right path, and a win Saturday against the Mountaineers would be his biggest one yet. One sure sign that the rivalry isn't the same, though: West Virginia returned several thousand unsold tickets from its allotment for this game.

9. Bad vs. Bad: Call it the Matchup of the Weak: Rutgers' anemic offense versus Cincinnati's porous defense. Both are last in the Big East statistically at what they do, and both have been horrific at times this season. The Bearcats have given up at least 30 points in their last three games, all losses. The Scarlet Knights have all but thrown in the towel and gone to the Wing-T in an effort to generate any yardage. It's the very movable object against the extremely stoppable force. At least we'll know Saturday who truly has the worst unit in the Big East.

10. Turnover trial: Speaking of extremes, we also have that in the turnover battle between Cincinnati and Rutgers. The Bearcats act like the football is a hot potato covered in malaria at times; they've lost 19 turnovers and have a minus-10 margin, third worst in the FBS. The Scarlet Knights, meanwhile, have been excellent again at ripping the ball free, leading the Big East with 11 fumbles gained and ranking 13th nationally in turnover margin. You've got to think that a balhawk like Rutgers safety Joe Lefeged is lying awake at night drooling over going up against slippery-fingered receivers like D.J. Woods. In the battle for the Big East basement, turnovers could make the difference.