Big East mailbag

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

In an interstellar burst, I'm back to save the universe. And also answer some of your e-mails.

Jim F. from Corning, N.Y., writes: Can you clarify something for me? I have heard that if the Big East No. 2 team has two more wins than Notre Dame, the Gator Bowl cannot choose ND. Can you confirm? Looks like the second-place Big East team will have 10 wins, and I believe ND will end up 7-5.

Brian Bennett: Lots of questions about this situation this week. I was originally told by the Big East that a rule would prevent Notre Dame from being taken unless it was within two wins of an eligible Big East team. The league has since clarified that it has more of a handshake agreement on this, not a rule.

Gator Bowl president Rick Catlett told the South Bend Tribune last week that he thinks Notre Dame needs to be at least 8-4. He added that "it wouldn't be impossible to take a 7-5 Notre Dame over a 10-2 Big East team, but it would be difficult."

The Big East would likely raise a ruckus if the Gator Bowl tried to take a 7-5 Irish over, say, an 11-1 Cincinnati or 10-2 Pitt. The X factor here is that this is the last year of the relationship between the Gator Bowl and the Big East, which is switching to the Champs Sports Bowl next season. So Catlett and his game might not care about burning bridges.

Steve from Tampa, Fla., writes: How can the USA Today poll voters place WVU ahead of USF? Have they not watched college football the past two weeks? Maybe you can provide an explanation.

Brian Bennett: There is no apparent logic to the coaches' poll. That's clear. I actually had West Virginia ahead of South Florida in my power rankings this week, which may seem crazy, too. My reasoning is that the Mountaineers are still alive for the Big East title, while the Bulls are not, despite the head-to-head result. We'll find out Friday night if West Virginia deserves that respect.

Zach from Cincinnati writes: Lost 10 defensive starters, Heisman contending QB gets injured, and the Bearcats are still undefeated national title contenders? Is there any coach more deserving than Brian Kelly for the national Coach of the Year Award?

Brian Bennett: Kelly certainly deserves very strong consideration. I would have put the other Kelly, Oregon's Chip, up there as well until last week, and now maybe Stanford's Jim Harbaugh deserves some consideration. So does Idaho's Robb Akey, Temple's Al Golden and a few others. But Brian Kelly has to be high in on the list.

Scott from Buckhannon, W. Va., writes: Put on the "Head Coach" hat for a minute. You have a fifth-year senior playing his only full year for your team, and you have a freshman that was a Top 10 recruit. You start off the year with the senior, but as the year goes on, his play is erratic and he makes freshman-like mistakes. Your team starts struggling to get in the end zone, although it used to embarrass defenders. Knowing that this is the only full year this senior is able to benefit your team, and your fresman can play just as well as the senior, what would you do for the benefit of your program now, and in the future?

Brian Bennett: Well, it's not hard to see what you're getting at there, Scott. For the record, no, I don't think Geno Smith should replace Jarrett Brown. Smith is a real talent, but Brown is a terrific player who's going through a rough patch, along with the entire offense. You have to play to win now, and West Virginia is still alive for a BCS game.

The only way you throw a true freshman in there is if he's clearly the best player at the position (as is the case at Rutgers) or if there's nothing left to play for and it's time to start rebuilding. That's not the case here.

Dave from Cincinnati writes: As for the Cincy-UConn "Strangest Moment" you mentioned, I was one of the fans at Nippert Stadium that was booing on that 3rd and 8 play. I think the fans were booing at that series in general. It was poor play-calling all around. Yes, Brian Kelly is the reason we are where we are ... but that series was awful. We could see the comeback mounting. You have to remember, we live in Cincinnati... we expect the worst every single time.

Michael M. from Cincinnati writes: I believe that the booing you're referring to in the first series of the fourth quarter of the Cincinnati game was not directed towards either team, but towards a fan in the UC student section. An obnoxious young man was flaunting an Ohio State jersey, and the student section quickly responded with boos, followed by cheers of "take it off!" Right now the Bearcat faithful are so pumped about Brian Kelly that we would cheer for him just for walking and chewing bubble gum at the same time.

Brian Bennett: Are you guys sure you were at the same game? Sorry, Michael, I'm not buying the obnoxious fan in the grassy knoll explanation. The timing would be too perfectly coincidental.

Dwight Schrute from Scranton, Penn., writes: Assume UConn becomes bowl eligible for a moment. Not that crazy, a win over Syracuse and a win over ND or USF. Does the Jasper Howard tragedy improve their bowl appeal? There's no doubt, the loss would most certainly not be worth the gain, but there's also no denying that it IS a big story and a lot of people would tune in to see a group of young guys who, emotionally, had the worst season of any team this year.

Brian Bennett: Hey, there, Dwight. Love your beets.

I do think UConn's story, not to mention how competitive the Huskies have been, would make this an attractive bowl team. The problem is they have to win out to get to 7-5, and I think 6-6 is far, far more likely. With the Gator Bowl potentially out, the Big East will have only five bowl slots, and those will all be taken by teams with winning records. By rule, UConn cannot jump them in the pecking order. So the Huskies would have to find an at-large spot somewhere, and all teams 7-5 or better in the FBS will have to be placed first. That won't be easy.