Five burning questions headed into a pivotal week for the Big East:

1 Is Cincinnati (9-0, 5-0) a legitimate national title contender?

The Bearcats want to make a case for the title game, but they might not even win the conference. Tony Pike is expected to see some action against West Virginia tomorrow night, but he still might not be back to 100 percent when Cincinnati plays Pittsburgh next month. Cinci can definitely drop a game and they most likely will. Even if they survive, don’t dare make a case for them as a better team than TCU or Texas.

2 Is the worst over for UConn (4-5, 1-4)?

As if the stabbing death of Jasper Howard wasn’t enough for the Huskies, Storrs has been heartbreak city for Randy Edsall’s team. All five of their losses are by a combined 15 points. It can get worse and it will. UConn won’t make a bowl. A program on the rise in recent years seems to have hit a plateau.

3 Is Louisville (3-6, 0-4) really that bad?


Uh, yes. Steve Kragthorpe is challenging Charlie Weis for the worst coach of the decade. Remember, it was only in 2006 when the Cardinals were the center of serious national title talk. The program has now been eclipsed by Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, South Florida and Rutgers during that time.

4 Why is the BCS giving the Big East so much respect?

The conference that failed to place a team in the AP preseason poll now has two teams in the top 15 — four teams total — in the BCS rankings. Pitt and Cincinnati are legitimate high-end teams, but the conference is still mediocre. They get a boost because everyone else, ahem Big 12 and ACC, is a joke this season.

5 What’s the state of Rutgers (6-2, 1-2)?

The Scarlet Knights have won three straight bowls and are in the midst of a 13-2 stretch, but they haven’t beaten a true quality opponent this season. The only real team they’ve played is Cincinnati and they got smoked, 47-15. Wins against Florida International, Howard and Texas Southern aren’t fooling anyone. Good call by Greg Schiano to pass on Dion Lewis.

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