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Friday Big East mailbag: Game of the year aftermath

Posted by the ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

The first Big East game of the year is in the books. The next one might be Nov. 13, when West Virginia comes to Cincinnati, if both teams keep winning until then.

That's down the road. Right now, let's get to your emails:

Dimitri from Cincinnati: After last night's game, I gotta say, UC is the best football team in the nation. Now I know that's a huge statement, but hear me out, and maybe, just maybe you can agree. Just look at what UC was up against. They were playing away, versus another undefeated team in their conference, that had one of their former coaches. That's a tough game in itself for any team to play. But to make things even tougher, the star QB goes down. But UC changed QBs and playing styles on the fly, and not only did they keep their lead, they extended it. Winning by 17 with all those going against them is remarkable.

Brian Bennett: It was a remarkable win, given all the things that the Bearcats were up against. Best team in the nation? I won't go that far. I'm still not sold that Cincinnati could beat Florida or Alabama or a couple of other elite teams.

But how high should the Bearcats be ranked this week? I would argue they deserve to be ahead of Boise State, which was not at all impressive in beating Tulsa by seven points on Thursday night. No way you can tell me Tulsa is better than South Florida. I would also put Cincinnati ahead of Ohio State, because the Bearcats have done more this year in beating three pretty good teams (Oregon State, South Florida and Rutgers) on the road.

Beyond that, Cincinnati fans should root for USC to lose to Notre Dame and Oklahoma to beat Texas this weekend.

Brett from Austin, Texas, writes: It seems that Cincy can just interchange quarterbacks without losing too much. I felt that Zach Collaros did a more than reasonable job of managing the game to a win after the long QB draw play on his first drive. Is Tony Pike really that special of a QB or is he just an average to above-average quarterback playing in an excellent system? You know that NFL scouts are thinking the same thing right now.

Brian Bennett: Well, first of all, Cincinnati completely changed its system when Pike went out, going from a five-wide, shotgun spread passing attack to a zone-read quarterback run system. That in itself is amazing. Pike has all the skills. He's 6-foot-6 and can make every throw. The way he avoided a sack in the end zone, rolled to his left and zipped the ball to the sideline across his body 25 yards down the field late in the first half showed why the NFL is interested.

The questions about Pike are going to be his durability -- he's got a skinny frame and now has a second major problem with his left arm -- and whether he can take snaps under center ever down. That latter question, though, is the same one that guys like Sam Bradford and Colt McCoy must answer.

Brian from Raleigh, N.C., writes: Coach Kelly referenced being in the situaiton of playing with backups on short notice before. WAY back when he was at Grand Valley State, a Division II powerhouse under Kelly, his backup QB was his best WR. When the QB went down, they still ran the table for a national championship.

Brian Bennett: Actually, here's what happened. It was 2001, and star quarterback Curt Anes suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first round of the Division II playoffs. Kelly plugged in backup Todd Wojciechowski and receiver Ryan Brady, using Wojciechowski on throwing downs and Brady for running plays. Grand Valley State won the next two playoff games before losing by three points in the championship game.

At Central Michigan in 2006, starter Brian Brunner had a concussion on the second play of the season. Kelly turned to freshman Dan LeFevour, who led the team to the MAC title.

Nothing fazes this guy, apparently.

Keith from Pittsburgh writes: How on earth can George Selvie be a Lombardi semifinalist this year. I am so sick of these awards, and the "watch list" being pre-determined. I thought the award was for "Lineman of the Year," not best career, not second or third best last year, not based off of NFL potential. Greg Romeus has had a much bigger impact this year, and the stats show it. Sure, Selvie was hurt early, but shouldn't that be a consideration when determine who had the best year?

Brian Bennett: I still think Selvie is a great player who has an enormous impact on the game. But, I was watching him very closely last night, and Cincinnati left tackle Jeff Linkenbach -- who's probably a future pro himself -- did a great job of neutralizing Selvie most of the night. I really believe at this point that Jason Pierre-Paul is having the better season and has a much higher ceiling at the next level. Of course, Pierre-Paul had a more advantageous matchup against Sam Griffin instead of having to face Linkenbach.

Matt from Philadelphia writes: UCF is now the biggest university in Florida, third in the country. Is it inevitable they get an invite to the Big East in the next five years? Maybe all the expansion talk can be put to rest then. Although fun to think about, it gets almost as old as Favre re-re-re retiring.

Brian Bennett: I have always thought that, of the usual suspects mentioned for expansion (Memphis, East Carolina, etc.), Central Florida made the most sense. The school has good facilities, including a brand new, on-campus stadium, is in a major media market (Orlando) that's in the footprint of the Big East and would provide a natural rival for South Florida.

The downside is, the Bulls don't want them in. Right now, they have an obvious recruiting advantage over the Golden Knights because they can tell prospects, "Hey, come to Tampa and play in a BCS league." That would evaporate if UCF were in the Big East. Jim Leavitt said this summer he would acquiesce on UCF if it would help the Big East. The Golden Knights need to keep improving their football program and their other sports, but they could be an attractive target down the road.

Jason from Charleston, W. Va., writes: Shouldn't your stock report include a special teams category? Returners, punters, kick-offs, field goals, PAT's, return coverage... quite a bit of the game goes on during special teams.

Brian Bennett: Jason, I included special teams players a couple of weeks ago and will mix it in occasionally in the future. I don't think people want to see a week-by-week report of where the punters, kickers and return men stand. Am I wrong?

Gary P. from Cincinnati writes: If the Big East wants to be ranked with the best football conferences, don't we have to play the best? Could the Big East pass a rule that would require every Big East football program to play one game each year against a Top 10 or top 15 team?

Brian Bennett: Well, schedules are done far in advance, so I don't know how you can predict where a team will be ranked a couple of years down the line. There are some good teams on the Big East schedule this year, including Penn State, Auburn, Oregon State, Florida State, Miami, North Carolina, Utah and Notre Dame. League teams are scheduling more aggressively in the future, with planned games against the following:

Florida (South Florida 2010)

USC (Syracuse 2011, '12)

LSU (West Virginia, 2010, '11)

Oklahoma (Cincinnati 2010),

Ohio State (Cincinnati 2012)

Michigan (UConn 2010 and '13)

Georgia (2011, '12),

Penn State (Rutgers 2014, 15),

Tennessee (UConn 2015, '16),

Just to name a few.