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Big East notebook: Luck of the Irish could rub off


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Rutgers fans might also want to consider becoming Notre Dame fans at this point in the season -- all because of the unique bowl arrangement the Big East has with the Fighting Irish.

It works like this: If Notre Dame qualifies for a BCS berth -- which Charlie Weis' team can do by running the table and finishing 9-2 and in the top 12 of the BCS standings -- the Big East will have four bowl spots available for its teams.

But if the Irish lose another game and fail to crack the BCS lineup, they will probably slip to the Gator Bowl, one of the games the Big East has a tie-in with. That would leave only three bowl bids available for the league.

First, of course, Rutgers has to become bowl eligible, which the Knights can be for the first time in 13 years by beating Navy on Saturday.

If that happens, Greg Schiano's crew can probably plan on heading to either Phoenix or Charlotte, N.C., for the school's first bowl appearance since 1978.

The Big East champion earns an automatic BCS berth, with the runner-up sent to the Gator Bowl (unless Notre Dame takes that spot). That leaves the Insight Bowl in Phoenix on Dec. 27 and the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte on Dec. 31 available for the league's next two bowl-eligible teams.

Technically, the third-place team is slotted for the Insight (against a Pac-10 team) and the fourth-place team to the Meineke Car Care Bowl (against an ACC opponent), but it's a loose slotting because of matchup and attendance considerations.

Assume the Irish win out. That leaves four bowl bids for the seven Big East teams still with bowl hopes (Syracuse has already clinched a losing season).

Unless West Virginia stumbles badly, the Mountaineers will represent the league in the BCS. If Louisville wins out -- Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Syracuse and UConn remain -- the Cards would head to the Gator Bowl. That would leave the Insight and Meineke Car Care bowls, with Rutgers and South Florida appearing to be the leading candidates for those spots based on their remaining schedules.

UConn, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati can still qualify for a bowl game, but their remaining schedules suggest that none of the three will.

The Big East also has an arrangement with the Motor City Bowl to fill one of the spots if the Big Ten fails to have enough teams qualify for bowls.

SEE YOU IN NOVEMBER

With Hurricane Wilma forcing the postponement of last Saturday's West Virginia-South Florida game in Tampa until Dec. 3, the Mountaineers will wind up going 17 days between games. When they do resume, it will be Nov. 2 against Connecticut -- a Wednesday night. WVU then plays at Cincinnati the following Wednesday and is home to Pittsburgh on Thanksgiving. That means coach Rich Rodriguez's team won't play a Saturday game in November.

"When the schedule came out, we had kind of planned for it, but not having a Saturday game in November is a little different," Rodriguez said. "We have played midweek in the past, but not back to back to back. That was one of the things we tried to prepare for in our preseason preparation. I don't think it will be a big deal."

A (SOUTH) FLORIDA VACATION

The postponement of last Saturday's game also means South Florida will have played once in 34 days when the Bulls travel to Rutgers on Nov. 5, which is their next game.

It also means they will have gone from Sept. 24 until Nov. 19 (when Cincinnati comes to town) between home games.

"I haven't been in this situation in the middle of the season, so I don't know the answers (to how it will affect his team)," USF coach Jim Leavitt said. "We can all see the problems. We can all see the difficulties. You don't want it to be counterproductive. You have to stay positive and depend on great leadership and guys wanting to go out and practice hard to stay on top of their games."

MR. ROBINSON MEET MS. SARA LEE

After committing just two turnovers through the first three games, Syracuse has had 17 in the past four. One week after fumbling nine times against Rutgers (losing four), the Orange suffered five turnovers in a 34-17 loss at Pittsburgh.

"We eliminated the fumbles, but we turned them into interceptions," said Syracuse coach Greg Robinson, whose team has lost five straight. "We've got to get them out of our system. I wish I could pinpoint (the reason), but it's not that simple."

TO THE VICTORS ...

Rutgers freshman tailback Ray Rice shared Offensive Player of the Week honors with Louisville QB Brian Brohm, while Knights punter Joe Radigan earned the Special Teams Player of the Week award -- thanks to fourth-quarter punts that landed at the UConn 1-yard line, 7-yard line and 8-yard line. Rice rushed for 217 yards on 27 carries in a 26-24 victory. Brohm was 21-of-26 for 303 yards with two TDs and no interceptions in the Cards' 46-22 victory over Cincinnati.

GAME OF THE WEAK

Cincinnati at Syracuse is the Big East's Game of the Week on Saturday -- and clearly by default. Only three league teams are playing, with Rutgers (home to Navy) being the other one.

TOM LUICCI'S RANKINGS

1. West Virginia (6-1 overall, 3-0 Big East): The Mountaineers will go 17 days between games thanks to Hurricane Wilma.

2. Rutgers (5-2, 3-1): One more victory clinches the Knights' first winning regular season since 1992

3. Louisville (5-2, 1-2): The Cards are idle until a Nov. 3 game against Pittsburgh -- the first of three straight at home.

4. Pittsburgh (4-4, 3-1): Louisville, UConn and WVU remain, with the Panthers needing to win two more to be bowl eligible.

5. South Florida (3-3, 1-1): The postponed West Virginia game means the Bulls will play once in 34 days.

6. Cincinnati (3-4, 1-2): The Bearcats' last chance to win this year could be at Syracuse on Saturday.

7. Connecticut (4-3, 1-2): Bowled over? The Huskies finish with West Virginia, Pitt, USF and Louisville.

8. Syracuse (1-6, 0-4): The turnover-prone Orange is out of bowl hopes with four games remaining.

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Guest bullistic930

Some of you BCS-savvy folks tell me this: Does Notre Dame have anything to gain/lose by joining Big East?  

Since USF has joined the Big East, I'm interested in seeing the conference establish itself more. I think the addition of Notre Dame would be huge...but as I said, I'm not aware of the benefits or drawbacks of such a move.

Anyone?

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Some of you BCS-savvy folks tell me this: Does Notre Dame have anything to gain/lose by joining Big East?

They really have nothing to gain as they have a pretty sweet deal with the Big East.  They would have their independence to lose.

The only way that Notre Dame would join the Big East for football is if the Big East took a hard stand and said all or nothing and Notre Dame felt it was more important to have their other sports in than it is to remain iindependent in football.  Long story, short, it ins't going to happen.

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