West Virginia Vs. Pitt: WVU Easily Wins Backyard Brawl, Opening Door For UConn In Big East

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Week 13 College Football Standings: UConn Defeats Cincinnati, In Line To Win Big East BCS Berth

The Connecticut Huskies defeated the Cincinnati Bearcats 38-17 today, setting up a critical final week that will determine who wins the Big East and its BCS berth. UConn continues to control its own destiny with the win, and will win the BCS berth if it can defeat South Florida on the road next week. West Virginia, meanwhile, needs to beat Rutgers at home – probably not a particularly tall order – and hope for a UConn loss.

Both UConn and WVU hold tiebreakers against Pitt, so Pitt will have to beat Cincinnati and hope for losses by both UConn and WVU. Nothing is out of the question in the Big East, but WVU losing to Rutgers would be a major shock, so the Panthers’ chances look slim.

Connecticut got a huge game from star running back Jordan Todman, who rushed for 175 yards and three touchdowns. Cincinnati quarterback Zach Collaros threw four interceptions in the Bearcats loss.

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Looking Back On The Backyard Brawl

A Happy Thanksgiving weekend indeed, at least for the residents of the Mountain State!

West Virginia's decisive 35-10 victory against the arch-rival Pitt Panthers did wonders for Mountaineer spirits, and keeps the gold and blue alive in the hunt for a conference title.  Obviously, the Mountaineers need help from the Cincinnati Bearcats or South Florida Bulls over the last two weeks of the season.  It becomes even more aggravating to know that if Ryan Clarke had simply held onto the ball in overtime against UConn, it would be the Mountaineers, not the Huskies who controlled their own destiny.  I was lucky to be in attendance for my first Backyard Brawl at Heinz Field, and it was a great trip, one that will be remembered by my crew for years to come.  Looking back on the action on the field, here are some of my thoughts:

  • West Virginia showed why turnovers are the most important statistic in football.  WVU has shot itself in the foot all season giving the football back to their opponents repeatedly.  Were it not for a few ill-advised passes against Syracuse and the flurry of fumbles against UConn, we're talking about the Mountaineers in a much different light.  Yesterday, the Mountaineer defense hounded the Panthers and forced them to cough it up three times on the ground and once in the air.  This game would have been a lot different if Brandon Hogan hadn't kicked it off with a big pick and return setting up the offense at the two for their first easy score of the day.  West Virginia's offense wasn't as dominating as the scoreboard showed, it was their defense that set them up time and time again.
  • As the Noel Devine-era draws to a close, we're witnessing a return to the classic Don Nehlen-style power runners in the backfield.  Devine only carried the ball four times yesterday, which seems insane.  On his only catch of the day he tore off a forty eight yards and set up the Mountaineers for another easy score, so he showed moments of flash, but generally wasn't a factor.  Instead, Mullen and Stewart opted for the brusining tandem of Shawne Alston and Ryan Clarke, both of whom saw significant action.  While Clarke got the touchdowns, it has been Alston who has been the greatest revelation of the last few weeks.  It seems he has the bulk to pick up those extra couple yards that have been missing from Devine's inside running.
  • While the grinders were grinding, Geno Smith wasn't really throwing it much.  He had twelve attempts officially, but also eight rushes, most of which were failed pass plays.  The offensive line makes Geno's job really hard and Jeff Mullen appears to be trying to mitigate the problems by relying less and less on his sophomore passer and more on his running game.  When Mullen has a need for speed, he's much more successful getting the ball onto the perimeter with short passes to Jock Sanders and Tavon Austin, whose 71-yard touchdown was the offensive play of the day for the Mountaineers.
  • Finally, this defense is for real.  There's really no other way around it.  Holding Pitt's offense to a mere ten points is a feat that cannot go understated.  By being opportunistic on Friday afternoon, the Mountaineer defense repeatedly gave the offense great field position to work with.  This defense may go down as one of the best in school history and has carried the water for this Mountaineer team for much of the season. Hopefully this unit will get some time in the limelight if the Huskies can drop one of their last two and propel the Mountaineers back to the BCS.
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Week 13 College Football Scores: WVU's Win Sets Up Showdown For UConn And Cincinnati

Just in case it weren’t clear, here’s what happened in the Big East today, what will happen tomorrow, and what that means.

First, Louisville beat Rutgers 40-13 in a game that is meaningless in terms of the conference championship, and Rutgers remains pinned to the bottom of the Big East standings. Tomorrow, Syracuse and South Florida will play out-of-conference games against Boston College and Miami, respectively, but both the Orange and the Bulls are essentially out of the Big East race.

The first relevant game this week was played, obviously, by West Virginia and Pitt, and with the Mountaineers’ 35-10 win, WVU and Pitt are tied atop the conference, with WVU holding the tiebreaker. The other game, though, is Cincinnati against UConn, which will be played tomorrow at noon. With a UConn win, the Huskies would vault into a three-way tie with WVU and Pitt and would hold tiebreakers on both.

If the Huskies win both their remaining games, they’ll be the Big East champs, which is a shame, since they just aren’t a very good team – and not in the way the Mountaineers and the Panthers just aren’t that good. No, the Huskies just aren’t good. They lost to the aforementioned cellar-dwelling Rutgers and got blown out by an otherwise irrelevant Louisville team. They have also allowed more points than they’ve scored in conference games. They currently control their destiny in the Big East because they beat Syracuse and snuck by both WVU and Pitt. A Bearcats win tomorrow would be a godsend for both WVU and Pitt, and you should hope for it either way, because as much as WVU and Pitt don’t deserve a BCS berth, UConn really doesn’t deserve it.

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West Virginia Vs. Pitt: Turnovers Undo Panthers As WVU Wins Backyard Brawl

Thanks in part to four Pitt turnovers, West Virginia won this afternoon’s backyard brawl in a rout, 35-10. The game started on a terrible note for Pitt, as Brandon Hogan intercepted Tino Sunseri’s pass on the Panthers’ first possession and ran the ball back to the Pitt 2 yard line. Pitt went into the second quarter tied at seven, but Dion Lewis lost a fumble. Then Ray Graham fumbled in the Panthers’ next possession and WVU scored in the ensuing drive, and the Mountaineers headed into halftime with a seven-point lead.

The Mountaineers scored again in their first third-quarter possession, and Pitt followed by turning the ball over on downs after going for it on 4th-and-3. Then late in the game, Pitt flubbed a snap to Tino Sunseri in the shotgun formation, and WVU wound up with the ball yet again.

The Mountaineers scored on two touchdown runs by Ryan Clarke and two touchdown passes from Geno Smith to Tavon Austin, as well as a short touchdown pass from Smith to Will Johnson.

Pitt’s loss allows UConn to control its own destiny in the Big East. With wins tomorrow against Cincinnati and next week against South Florida, the Huskies would win the Big East’s BCS berth. If West Virginia wins next week and UConn loses either game, the Mountaineers would head to a BCS bowl.

There are still scenarios in which Pitt can win the BCS berth, but the loss today completed a collapse for the Panthers, who seemed to have the conference championship well in hand a few days ago.

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West Virginia Vs. Pitt: 2010 Backyard Brawl Is Finally Here

After a full year, it's finally time for the Backyard Brawl again. As usual, this game has ramifications on the conference championship.

If Pitt wins, the Panthers will be a single game away from winning the Big East outright. If the Mountaineers win, they will head into the final week of the regular season with a chance to win the conference, depending on how UConn finishes the season.

Both teams have shown the ability to make long pass plays, but this game will come down to defense and the running games. Both have top 25 defenses and the Mountaineers boast the No. 4 scoring defense in the nation. Each side also has a star running back. Noel Devine and Dion Lewis have both rushed for 1,000 yard seasons and after slow starts, both are starting to get back on track.

Another key for both sides will be to limit mistakes. WVU QB Geno Smith and Pitt QB Tino Sunseri have done a good job of keeping their teams in games, but both have struggled at times with interceptions. One of these QBs may need to go out and win their team a game, but the focus of both offenses is likely to be the rushing attacks.

The Panthers probably have a better passing game, but West Virginia may be looking to throw the ball a bit more. Pitt's secondary has struggled at times during this season and last week was an absolute disaster for the unit as they were called for numerous pass interference penalties. Pitt's secondary doesn't need to completely shut down the Mountaineers' passing game, but they can't afford to let West Virginia continue drives and get down the field. This game could come down to a field goal and every point is valuable.

Field condition will also be a factor, though, and we might see even less offense than expected.

Pitt can hardly stand to look past the Mountaineers, but should they win, a strong Cincinnati offense awaits and the conference championship is far from guaranteed. A UConn loss this weekend could make that Cincinnati game a moot point, but Pitt can't depend on that happening. Should the Mountaineers win, a beatable Rutgers team awaits. But West Virginia needs UConn to stumble in one of its two final games to win the conference.

No matter what happens after Friday, the conference may not be sewn up yet. As always, the Backyard Brawl should be exciting.

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