Like West Virginia, the South Florida Bulls (4-3, 2-1) control their fate in the race for a Big East title. If they win out -- at Syracuse on Saturday, at home against Cincinnati, at UConn and at home against WVU -- they will claim a BCS bowl bid. The Bulls should be favored in three of those four, excluding WVU, but coach Jim Leavitt is focused on the immediate moment in the aftermath of a huge win at Rutgers. He says he hasn't even mentioned a BCS bowl to his players. "Right now, I'm hoping everybody makes their meeting at 2:30," Leavitt said Monday. "If everybody shows up, that'll be a start. I don't really get ahead of myself too much." Courtney Denson, who began the season as the Bulls' starting quarterback, took some snaps at wide receiver against Rutgers. Leavitt was asked whether that was his idea or Denson's. "I'm not going to tell Courtney what to do," Leavitt said. "Courtney's a special guy. He wants to help this team any way he can." Based on Leavitt's comments about sickly Syracuse, one wonders what film he was watching. "We know we're facing a tremendous football team," he said. As his program grows, Leavitt might want to consider being a bit more of an ambassador. A reporter from the Associated Press asked Leavitt on the conference call to comment on the Rutgers-Louisville game, as USF has beaten both. The reporter prefaced his question by acknowledging that Leavitt is focused on Syracuse. The coach's only response: "I'm focused on Syracuse. You're right." Senior defensive end Terrence Royal was named the conference's Defensive Player of the Week after he had six tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery he returned 11 yards for a touchdown against Rutgers. Tailback Andre Hall was named the league's Offensive Player of the Week after rushing for 168 yards and three touchdowns on 35 carries.
The Bearcats (4-4, 2-2) haven't beaten anyone of note and have been blown out four times but still have a chance to make some noise in the Big East. Their home finale Wednesday against West Virginia (7:30 p.m., ESPN2) not only gives them a chance to put a crimp in WVU's conference-title plans but also would put them one win away from becoming bowl eligible. A major key will be Cincinnati's ability to run the ball -- using tailbacks Bradley Glatthaar and Greg Moore -- against WVU's conference-leading rush defense. Bearcats coach Mark Dantonio said that WVU's 3-3 odd stack defense can adjust easily to multiple offenses and is manned by extremely talented players. Still, Dantonio said, "We have to be able to establish [a good] running game, just because that's who we are. I don't think we're a football team who can come back and throw 60 times a game and be ultrasuccessful. The strength of our team thus far has been our running backs, so you have to go with your strength." Senior defensive end and captain Adam Roberts is coming off two outstanding efforts. In the 22-16 win at Syracuse, he had three tackles for loss, including one in which he tossed tailback Damien Rhodes for an 8-yard loss to force a third-quarter field goal. "He's the one senior that has played really consistently on our defense throughout the year," Dantonio said. "He's been a calming influence, I think, on our younger players." Sophomore receiver Ernest Jackson is developing a nice rapport with quarterback Dustin Grutza. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Jackson is coming off a career-high, seven-catch game vs. Syracuse. Former record-setting Bearcats quarterback Gino Guidugli will be an honorary captain for the game Wednesday.
The Huskies (4-4, 1-3) have little time to lick their wounds after an embarrassing 45-13 loss at West Virginia. They play Saturday at Pitt and need two victories in their final three games to become bowl eligible. At this point, that seems about as likely as the Houston Texans winning the Super Bowl -- UConn plays South Florida and Louisville after Pitt -- but anything's possible in this conference. The Huskies have lost three consecutive games, as problems along the offensive line have proven to be ruinous. The team has two excellent running backs in Terry Caulley and Cornell Brockington but against WVU rushed for just 12 yards, a program-low since it went to Division I-A five years ago. The Huskies had been averaging 217.3 yards rushing, but that stat, like most of UConn's, is devalued by a mostly soft nonconference schedule. UConn had only 97 yards rushing the previous week against Rutgers. Two redshirt freshmen and a converted defensive lineman have been starting on the line. Coach Randy Edsall likely will insert another redshirt freshman -- William Beatty -- at left tackle this weekend. Edsall hasn't yet committed to a quarterback, so he'll either go with true freshman Dennis Brown or D.J. Hernandez, who is recovering from wrist surgery. UConn lost two more key players in the loss to West Virginia -- fullback Lou Allen (broken right middle finger) and kick returner Jimmy McClam (knee). Edsall took responsibility for the hideous showing at WVU. The game was televised on ESPN2. "It's more on me than anybody else," he said. "I'm the head coach, and I take responsibility for it." One bright spot against WVU was the play of linebacker Ryan Henegan, who had a game-high 14 tackles.