What did we learn in the Big East after Week 12?
1. Anybody's conference. OK, well, maybe not anybody's. Sorry, USF, UConn and Syracuse. Everybody else, start getting out your pencils, make sure you have erasers and start figuring out the scenarios to get your team into a BCS game. Rutgers' 20-3 win over Cincinnati leaves the Big East with a five-way tie atop the league standings. Brace yourself, because the potential is there for this season to be even worse than 2010 when it comes to the league rep in the BCS. You thought getting an 8-4 UConn team into the Fiesta Bowl last year was bad? How about the prospect of 7-5 Louisville or 7-5 Pitt getting into a BCS bowl game this year? Not so sure that is going to sit well with the rest of the nation, which will surely wonder why the Big East gets a five-loss team into the BCS when worthy one- and two-loss teams get left out (ahem, Boise). Get ready for the ridicule if one of those scenarios plays out.
2. Missing Zach. Cincinnati tried to convince us that the offense would be run the same way with Munchie Legaux in charge. Not so much. The Bearcats managed a field goal in a 20-3 loss to Rutgers, a loss that cost them control of the Big East race. It was their lowest point total since getting shut out 38-0 to West Virginia in 2005. There was nothing Cincinnati could do to get into a rhythm without Zach Collaros, out for the regular season with a broken ankle. This had been the highest-scoring offense in the Big East, a team that was averaging 443 yards a game. Instead, on Saturday, the Bearcats were completely dominated on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Rutgers, anticipating more of a run-first mentality, held Isaiah Pead to 28 yards. Legaux completed just 12 passes.
3. Rutgers can run. Who knew Rutgers had a run game? All season the Scarlet Knights had starts and stops when it came to rushing, trying a three-headed combo of Jawan Jamison, Savon Huggins and Jeremy Deering. Huggins is out, so Rutgers has been able to split the reps between Jamison and Deering. It was Jamison's turn to shine against Cincinnati, as he racked up a career-high 200 yards. Rutgers went into the game averaging 90 yards a game on the ground -- third-worst in the nation. But for one game, at least, Rutgers proved it could ground and pound its way to a win, controlling the ball for more than 38 minutes.
4. Louisville locked in. The Cardinals kissed the distractions away and made it to bowl eligibility after a 34-20 win over UConn. There was nothing particularly awe-inspiring about the win -- but there is plenty to like about this team. It was not too long ago that the Cardinals were 2-4, and coach Charlie Strong called his players in for individual meetings, searching for somebody to step up and make some plays. He was looking for a few good leaders, for the players to trust in one another. Now here they are, the youngest team in the Big East, with a very real shot at making it back to a BCS game. Kudos to Strong and his players for their perseverance and refusal to quit.
5. Bowl chances hurting. UConn (4-6) needs to beat Rutgers and Cincinnati to become bowl-eligible for the fifth straight season; USF (5-5) has to beat either Louisville or West Virginia to become bowl-eligible for the seventh straight season. The Bulls might have to do it without quarterback B.J. Daniels, who hurt his right shoulder in a loss to Miami. Coach Skip Holtz didn't have an injury update after the game, but if Daniels is out it will be even tougher on the Bulls. Already, they are teetering on the brink of winning fewer than eight games for the first time since 2005. To get to eight they have to win out, including the bowl game. Meanwhile, UConn only hurt itself in a loss to Louisville. Too many missed tackles, dropped passes and overthrown balls plagued the Huskies.