<
>

Week 12 review/Week 13 preview

In ye olden days:

Team of the week: Connecticut. Good for the Huskies for finally getting over the hump and winning a close game, their first since the Jasper Howard death. And good for the Big East, since Notre Dame may now be out of the Gator Bowl picture.

Best game: What is it about Notre Dame that brings out the great games from Big East teams? Last year, Pitt won in quadruple overtime and Syracuse mounted a furious fourth-quarter rally to pull the upset. This year, Pitt held off a late Notre Dame charge to win at home, and on Saturday, UConn won 33-30 in double overtime.

At least we now know why the Irish will never join the Big East: they'd go winless in league play.

Biggest play: Jordan Todman's 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the third quarter at South Bend. That tied the game at 17 and gave UConn the spark it needed to believe.

Best call: To Syracuse coach Doug Marrone, for confusing Rutgers with an array of pre-snap motion on offense and blitzing from all angles on defense. The Scarlet Knights never saw it coming -- and nobody but Marrone saw a 31-13 Orange victory coming.

Big Man on Campus (Offense): After probably his worst game of the year at Rutgers, South Florida quarterback B.J. Daniels bounced back with a record-setting performance against Louisville. He produced 445 total yards and became the first Big East player ever to throw for 300 yards and run for 100 yards in the same game.

Big Man on Campus (Defense): Syracuse lost playmaking linebacker Derrell Smith to injury early last week. So Doug Hogue stepped things up in a big way. He had a single-game school-record 6.5 tackles for loss against Rutgers, including 3.5 sacks.

Big Man on Campus (Special teams): Todman, for his kick return mentioned above.

Worst hangover: Rutgers. Sure, the 7-2 record was mostly a product of a crummy schedule. But the Scarlet Knights appeared to be building toward something after wins over UConn and South Florida. They were even thinking about a 10-win season and perhaps one of the better Big East bowls. Instead, after the horrible showing at Syracuse, nothing they do the rest of the way will get them much more respect, and they'll be ticketed yet again for a minor postseason destination like Toronto.

Strangest moment: I guess at this point it shouldn't be considered strange since it wasn't by any means the first time it's happened. But South Florida coach Jim Leavitt opened a gash on his nose and above his left eye with one of his stock motivational tricks: head-butting a helmeted player in the locker room at halftime against Louisville.

"He grabbed somebody -- I think it was (walk-on linebacker ) LaDre Watkins," safety Nate Allen told the St. Petersburg Times. "He headbutted him and fell backwards. I couldn't help but laugh, because that's the best one I've seen. ... We were fired up about that one."

The odd part is that Leavitt felt the need to do that against the Cardinals, one of the Big East's worst teams. What will he do if he thinks the team needs inspiration against Miami? Impale himself on a goal post?

The future is now. Let's preview the Turkey week slate (Games listed in descending order of importance and interest):

No. 9 Pitt (9-1, 5-0 Big East) at West Virginia (7-3, 3-2): It means nothing in the grander scheme of the Big East race. But the "Backyard Brawl" would be important to these two teams if both were 0-11. (7 p.m., Friday, ESPN2)

No. 17 Miami (8-3) at South Florida (7-3, 3-3): Despite falling out of the Big East race early, the Bulls could make this a season to remember by beating both Florida State and Miami in the same year. (3:30 p.m., Saturday, ABC)

Illinois (3-7) at No. 5 Cincinnati (10-0, 6-0): On paper, this should be a total mismatch. But the Illini have showed a pulse of late, and this will be their bowl game. (Noon, Friday, ABC).

Syracuse (4-7, 1-5) at Connecticut (5-5, 1-4): The Huskies can clinch bowl eligibility, while the Orange would love to end the season on a two-game winning streak for momentum into the offseason. (Noon, Saturday, ESPN360.com)

Rutgers (7-3, 2-3) at Louisville (4-7, 1-5): Louisville coach Steve Kragthorpe will try to end his tenure the same way his first season concluded, with an upset of Rutgers at home. (11 a.m., Friday, ESPN2)