What we learned in the Big East, Week 7

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

1. Cincinnati is a contender: The Bearcats are the last unbeaten team in the Big East after Thursday's win at South Florida, and with losses by Virginia Tech and Ohio State and an unimpressive showing from Boise State, they should move up a few more spots in the polls this week. Cincinnati will probably need USC, Texas and maybe Iowa to lose, but it is in position to make a run at the BCS title game if it can put together another 6-0 run. The longterm health of Tony Pike is the biggest concern right now.

2. Pittsburgh may be Cincinnati's spoiler: The Bearcats are in the Top 10, but Pitt technically leads the Big East with a 3-0 league record. If the Panthers get by South Florida at home this week, their only other serious league challenges are the Backyard Brawl at West Virginia and a season finale at home against Cincinnati. The BCS bid is still within Pitt's grasp.

3. You'd better have your backup quarterbacks ready: Cincinnati and West Virginia each lost their starting quarterbacks this week, as Pike went down with a sprained wrist and Jarrett Brown suffered a possible concussion. Both got by with their backups, Zach Collaros and Geno Smith, respectively. That shouldn't be a surprise anymore. Six of the eight Big East teams have had to start or win a game with someone different under center than their season-opening starter. The three biggest quarterback stars -- Brown, Pike and South Florida's Matt Grothe -- have all gotten hurt.

4. South Florida is, well, South Florida: The Bulls are stuck in some weird, Groundhog Day-esque cycle. For the third straight year, they started out at least 5-0 and got into the rankings. And for the third straight year, they suffered their first defeat in a Thursday night Big East game. In 2007, it was Rutgers. Last year, Pitt. This year, Cincinnati. In the previous two seasons, that loss was the beginning of a midseason tumble. The Bulls have to try and avoid that same fate this year. Though with Pitt and West Virginia upcoming, the script may repeat.

5. Rutgers is playing for 2010: This season is by no means over for the Scarlet Knights, who still have Army, Louisville and Syracuse on the schedule. There's a very good chance they'll be playing in a bowl, most likely Toronto or St. Petersburg. But with two Big East home losses and a sputtering offense, this will not be the breakthrough year many Rutgers fans had foreseen. It will be hard for fans to get excited about yet another lower-level Big East bowl. The plus side is, with true freshmen Tom Savage and Mohamed Sanu playing well in addition to some other youngsters, this is a team building for the future.