It feels a little like 2007 nationally. It feels kind of like 2004 in the Big East. Let's talk about more recent history: last weekend's games.
Team of the week: Syracuse. The Orange have won this award a lot this season already, but never have they been more deserving. They registered the program's biggest win in years and shook up the Big East race with a 19-14 statement victory at West Virginia on Saturday. Look out, Pinstripe Bowl!
Best game: If nothing else, you can usually count on Cincinnati to deliver an entertaining shootout. The Bearcats oblige even if their opponent comes into the game with a sickly offense. That's what happened Friday night, when South Florida broke out of its shell for a 38-30 win at Nippert Stadium that included lots of big plays and a Cincinnati drive that fell just short at the end.
Biggest play: Syracuse linebacker Doug Hogue intercepted West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith and returned it 49-yards to the Mountaineers' 12-yard line with about a minute left in the first half. That set up an Orange field goal that made it 19-14 at the half, gave his team all the momentum and forced West Virginia to go for the touchdown late.
Best call: After Cincinnati was stopped on a fourth down in the third quarter, South Florida offensive coordinator Todd Fitch dialed up a sideline pass play from B.J. Daniels to Faron Hornes on the very next snap. Hornes got wide open, then raced past defenders for a 70-yard score and a 31-16 Bulls lead. I always love it when coaches go on the attack after a sudden change.
Big Man on Campus (Offense): South Florida's Daniels. Amid heavy criticism, he responded with his best game, accounting for four total touchdowns and no turnovers.
Big Man on Campus (Defense): Syracuse's Hogue. He had a pair of interceptions to go along with 10 tackles as West Virginia did not score in the final 46 minutes. Just call him Doug Huge.
Big Man on Campus (Special teams): Louisville kicker Chris Philpott. A week after missing two crucial field goals in an eight-point loss to Cincinnati, Philpott responded by making all four of his tries against Connecticut, connecting on kicks from 39, 42, 26 and 24 yards.
Worst hangover: West Virginia. From No. 20 in the rankings and feeling good about the season to losing to Syracuse at home while watching Pitt take over the Big East lead. Thank goodness the Mountaineers play on Friday night, because it's going to feel like an awfully long week for Bill Stewart.
Strangest moment: South Florida brought heated benches and portable heaters to its sideline at Cincinnati. Game time temperature: 56 degrees. ESPN caught a funny pre-game moment when Cincinnati coach Butch Jones kidded USF's Skip Holtz about his team's overreaction to the weather.
Now let's peer into the immediate future of Week 9 (Games listed in descending order of interest/importance):
Louisville (4-3, 1-1 Big East) at Pittsburgh (4-3, 2-0): Pitt will try to stay on top of the Big East standings against a feisty Louisville team. (ESPN3.com, Noon ET)
Syracuse (5-2, 2-1) at Cincinnati (3-4, 1-1): Can the Orange pull off yet another big road win? Can Cincinnati ever get it going? (ESPNU, Noon ET)
West Virginia (5-2, 1-1) at Connecticut (3-4,0-2): In the preseason, this looked like a game that could determine the Big East champ. Now it's a battle just to stay alive in the race -- or in UConn's case to stay alive for a bowl game. (ESPN2, Friday, 8 ET)
Bye: Rutgers, South Florida