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Pregame: Cincinnati at USF

TAMPA, Fla. -- The only game on the Big East schedule today has turned into a golden opportunity for the Cincinnati Bearcats.

After West Virginia and and Rutgers both lost Friday night, Cincinnati (5-1) stands all alone in first place in the Big East at 1-0 headed into its game against USF. A win means the Bearcats control the league. But if they lose, then seven of eight Big East teams would each have one loss in league play. USF would be the only team with two losses, but even still the Bulls would not be completely out of it.

One thing to keep in mind: Home teams are 7-1 in league play, including 2-0 on Friday night.

Yup, this is the world of the wide-open Big East.

Cincinnati is 1-1 on the road this season, and now faces its most critical stretch of the year starting today. Four of its final six games are on the road. After this game, Cincinnati has a bye, then plays at Pitt, home to West Virginia, then at Rutgers and at Syracuse before closing at home to UConn. After the events of Friday night, no game can be considered a gimme in this league.

The Bearcats have struggled getting out of the gate in their last two games and are hoping for a much faster start. USF, meanwhile, has dropped two straight and is playing at home for the first time since the end of September. One huge key to watch is going to be turnover margin. Cincinnati has been one of the best in the league in that category, while USF is at minus-3 in its two league losses.