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What to watch in the Big East, Week 11

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

1. The conference race, defined: West Virginia will either be eliminated from the Big East title race or be right in the thick of things depending on Friday's game against Cincinnati. A West Virginia loss makes the Dec. 5 Pitt-Cincinnati game the de facto conference championship game. A Mountaineers win shakes everything up again.

2. B.J. vs. the blitz: South Florida offensive coordinator Mike Canales said earlier this week that he and his staff had spent an inordinate amount of time studying how Rutgers attacks with its blitzes. The Bulls need to be ready to counter, because they're relying on freshman quarterback B.J. Daniels to read the Scarlet Knights' defense. On the other hand, Daniels' running ability means he can break off big plays if he can slip by the pressure.

3. Rutgers' offensive line vs. the South Florida pass rush: The Scarlet Knights' O-line came into this season as the league's most experienced, and most figured it would be one of the most dominant units in the conference. Instead, the group has been disappointing for the most part. Rutgers, led by Anthony Davis, has had good success in the past against George Selvie but now will have to deal with Jason Pierre-Paul as well. Plus, the Bulls' Kion Wilson fired a salvo toward the offensive line earlier this week.

4. Zach Collaros and Tony Pike: Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly says Collaros will start but Pike will play this week. How much or what role Pike will have against West Virginia is a mystery. Will the senior quarterback be rusty, or can he pick up right where he left off? And can Collaros continue his astounding production against a Mountaineers' defense that's been vulnerable against the pass of late?

5. Jarrett Brown and Noel Devine: Both had ankle injuries last week against Louisville, but both are expected back. Devine may not be 100 percent, but he needs to rip off a few of his patented highlight-reel runs to give West Virginia a real chance. Brown's production has fallen off in recent weeks, and he must make plays with his feet and arm to get the Mountaineers offense moving.

6. Cincinnati's defense: Red flags were raised when the Bearcats allowed 45 points to UConn last week. West Virginia has a different kind of offense, but one that's still potent when it's on point. Cincinnati needs to tighten things up not only to win but to show it's a legitimate BCS title contender.

7. NFL talent on an NFL field: The Pitt-Notre Dame game will feature lots of guys who will probably be playing at Heinz Field on Sundays in the future. The list includes Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen, Golden Tate, Michael Floyd and Manti Te'o and Pitt's Jonathan Baldwin, Greg Romeus and Dorin Dickerson, just to name a few. Even if you have no rooting interest in this game, it's worth checking out for the sheer amount of talent involved.

8. Can Pitt get pressure? Notre Dame's experienced offensive line has done a good job protecting Clausen most of the year, but USC managed to get pressure with its front four. Pitt has the second-best defensive line the Irish will have seen all year. The Panthers' defensive philosophy is based on getting those front four in to disrupt the pocket; they do not want to let Clausen sit back and pick his spots all night.

9. The Pitt running game: If Dion Lewis gets going, the Panthers will have a great shot at beating the Irish, whose defense just isn't good enough to contain both the running game and the play-action passing of Bill Stull. A solid running game will also slow down Notre Dame's frequent blitzing. Pitt may have the best offensive line in the league; it needs to take advantage of that against a so-so Irish defensive front.

10. The Basement Bowl: Syracuse-Louisville isn't going to pull in many outside viewers, but it's important for both teams. The Orange badly need something good after a string of losses both on and off the field. The Cardinals want to snap their embarrassing two-game losing streak to Syracuse. Whichever one loses may just wind up 0-7 in the Big East this year.