Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
The college football regular season has officially ended, and Cincinnati used a big finish to avoid an embarrassing season finale for both itself and the Big East.
Down 24-10 in the fourth quarter at Hawaii and looking like they had no energy or focus, the Bearcats showed why they're Big East champions by rallying for 19 straight points. As has been the case much of the season, their defense led the way. Brandon Underwood took an interception back for a touchdown to spark the comeback, and the defense also came up with a safety in a dominant fourth quarter.
Cincinnati won despite the worst performance of the year by quarterback Tony Pike. He was finally lifted after a ball slipped out of his hand, and replacement Dustin Grutza threw a 69-yard touchdown pass to Mardy Gilyard for the go-ahead score.
What a moment for Grutza, who began the year as the starter before breaking his leg in Week 2 at Oklahoma and who also came in during the fourth quarter at Louisville in a tough spot. Will there be a quarterback competition before the bowl? I think Pike will remain as the starter despite the off night.
It wasn't the most impressive win in the the world, but the Bearcats were happy just to get back on their charter and get back to the mainland. They won their school record 11th game and preserved their ability to climb ahead from their current No. 13 spot in the rankings. If they win their BCS game, which likely will be against Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl, a top 10 ranking should be theirs.
Here's how the Big East bowl lineup should shake out Sunday evening, along with projected opponents:
Orange Bowl: Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech
Sun Bowl: Pitt vs. Oregon State
Meineke Car Care Bowl: West Virginia vs. North Carolina
PapaJohns.com Bowl: Rutgers vs. N.C. State
International Bowl: UConn vs. Buffalo
St. Petersburg Bowl: South Florida vs. Memphis
And with that, finally, I'm going to sleep.