Big East stock report

'Tis the season to hang stockings. 'Tis always time for a stock report.

Stock up

1. Robert Sands: The Big East's defensive player of the week for his game against Pittsburgh (seven tackles, interception, three pass breakups). The West Virginia safety now leads the Big East in passes defended and interceptions.

2. UConn's offense: No longer one dimensional, the Huskies have been on a tear of late, scoring 45 at Cincinnati, 33 at Notre Dame and 56 against Syracuse. They're now second in the Big East in scoring at 32.4 points per game and are -- get this -- second in the league in passing yards.

3. Alec Lemon: The Syracuse freshman had nine catches for 140 yards and a touchdown in the loss at UConn. The Orange need big-time wideouts after Mike Williams' defection, and Lemon announced himself as an early candidate for that role in 2010.

4. Ben Guidugli: Just when you think Cincinnati can't possibly have any more weapons, the junior tight end exploded for seven catches, 149 yards and two scores against Illinois. What can't this offense do?

5. Tyler Bitancurt: The West Virginia kicker is making Mountaineers fans forget Pat McAfee. Bitancurt has made 12 of 13 kicks this season, including all four -- and the game-winner -- against Pitt.

Stock down

1. Produce pelting: One of the most memorable moments last season came when Cincinnati fans threw oranges on the field in the win over Pitt, which helped lock up an Orange Bowl bid. The Big East title is on the line between these two teams again this week, but what are fans supposed to do? Cincinnati will likely go to the Sugar Bowl with a win, so I guess visiting Bearcats fans could toss sugar packets. Pitt's destination is less certain with a win -- perhaps a sugary orange drink?

2. South Florida's consistency: The Bulls haven't won back-to-back games since Sept. 26 and Oct. 3. Their last five games have gone like this, in order: Lose by 27, win by 11, lose by 31, win by 12, lose by 21. They are clearly one of the more maddening teams in the country.

3. Dan Hutchins: The Pitt kicker has not made Panthers fans forget Conor Lee of late. After a strong start to the season, Hutchins has missed five field-goal attempts in the past five games, including two at West Virginia (though, to be fair, the 53-yarder he was asked to try was nearly impossible).

4. Brian Kelly's tightening access: With the biggest game of the season looming this week at Pitt, Kelly closed down practice and made only two players -- and none of the team's stars -- available to the media. Kelly remains the best quote in the league among coaches, but insiders will tell you he's put more and more restrictions on his players since the Bearcats started winning at a higher rate. Not allowing players to talk is a decidedly small-time move for a program that's aspiring to the big time, and it makes you wonder how Kelly might handle the white-hot glare at Notre Dame.

Player of the year race: Offense

1. Dion Lewis, RB, Pittsburgh: Wasn't his fault that Pitt lost to West Virginia, as he piled up 155 yards and set the Big East freshman rushing record. He now has 1,446 yards and 13 touchdowns.

2. Mardy Gilyard, WR, Cincinnati: Had seven catches for 102 yards and two touchdowns and returned a kick for a score against Illinois. The Big East's leader in all-purpose yards, with 187 yards per game.

3. Noel Devine, RB, West Virginia: His 88-yard touchdown run against Pitt was a turning point. He's got 1,232 yards and 11 touchdowns on the season.

4. Tim Brown, WR, Rutgers: Brown is leading the league in receiving yards per game (95.5) and yards per catch (20.6) while going over 1,000 yards.

5. Bill Stull, QB, Pittsburgh: Threw two costly interceptions against West Virginia in one of his rare off performances this year. He is still the Big East's leading passer, though Tony Pike is creeping up on him in yardage despite missing most of four games.

Player of the year race: Defense

1. Mick Williams, DT, Pittsburgh: The clubhouse leader for some time. The Cincinnati game could decide things.

2. Greg Romeus, DE, Pittsburgh: Ditto.

3. Devin McCourty, CB, Rutgers: The league's top cornerback.

4. Lawrence Wilson, LB, Connecticut: Leads the league with 130 tackles and is third nationally with 11.82 stops per game.

5. Sands: See above.