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The Road To The Big East Championship Goes Through...Syracuse?

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While not every team in the Big East currently has a shot at winning the conference title and booking their ticket for Miami, almost every team has a mathematical shot at finishing in the top 2. Everyone from 8-1 West Virginia to 5-5 Louisville is playing for bowl eligibility and the chance to place in the Gator Bowl or an otherwise respectable bowl.

Every team, except Syracuse.

Then how is it that the Orange have the ability to affect the Big East championship just as much as UConn and Cincinnati?

The Orange have two games remaining, this Saturday against 8-2 (4-1) UConn and then next weekend against 8-2 (3-2) Cincy. Nestled between those two teams in the conference standings is West Virginia at 8-1 (4-1). For all intents and purposes, these are the three teams with a real shot at representing the conference as its champion when it's all said and done.

In theory, those two games will end up deciding the conference winner. If West Virginia beats UConn lost to Cincy last week, giving the Bearcats the tie-breaker. Neither UConn or Cincy
have played West Virginia yet, they will do so in the next few weeks. If West Virginia beats Cincy this weekend, the West Virginia-UConn game winner will win the Big East. If Cincy beats West Virginia and West Virginia beats UConn, Cincy is the Big East winner. If West Virginia beats Cincy but loses to UConn, then UConn wins the conference.

You still with me?

Okay, so assuming West Virginia takes care of business against Pittsburgh at the end of the season, the only other team who can have an impact in all of these proceedings is Syracuse.

True, this is 2-8 Syracuse we're talking about. This is "
Gosh darn, everyone's tryin' real hard" Syracuse we're mentioning. But if there's any notion, any stat that you can throw out there to make UConn and Cincy think twice about a team with as many losses as they have wins, it's this...

Syracuse 38, Louisville 35.

Granted, Louisville is not the team we thought they were. They were over-ranked and ultimately they were proven to be fatally-flawed. But...couldn't you say the same about UConn? UConn, who should be 6-4 right now? UConn, who should have lost to Temple and probably should have lost to the aforementioned, mediocre Louisville team? UConn, who just got throttled by Cincy?

And you know what,
don't think it hasn't crossed their mind.

Syracuse, which will be coming off a 41-10 loss at home to South Florida, was a huge underdog against Louisville and had nothing to lose and that's the case now, too.

For some reason, Big East contenders are losing games in chunks this year. South Florida made it to #2 before dropping three in a row. Cincy dropped back-to-back games against L'ville and Pitt. Rutgers lots two in a row twice this season.

I'm not saying this is some kind of law and we should fully expect UConn to lay down this weekend. I mean, at the end of the day, even if UConn let themselves go, we're still us. But I think I'm starting to drink the
Orange44 Kool Aid and think we actually have a shot this weekend.

As for Cincy, the priming could be right for a major upset as well. The Bearcats just threw down with the Huskies and declawed them. If they can somehow defeat the top-ranked Mountaineers this weekend, all that will stand between then an and outright conference title will be the lowly Syracuse Orange. Better teams have been caught looking ahead against lesser competition than us (if you can believe it).

I know, the guy who routinely harps on how horrible this football team is suddenly wants to instill a sense of rah-rah and belief in these guys. I don't know, maybe its because we've fallen about as low seems possible. Maybe its cause its a foregone conclusion that Robinson is gone and the team truly has nothing to play for other than honor (like Zook's Gators after it was leaked he was out and they beat FSU). Maybe deep down I'm a sadist and I want Robinson to stick around for another year.

Whatever it is, I'm throwing it out there...much like the
Orange beat Boston College a few years ago to stick it to the out-going Eagles and much like the Orange beat Notre Dame with nothing on the line to end their season a few years before that, I expect the Orange to make some noise in the next two weekends. Who knows, they may still be a part of the Big East championship discussion after all.

(AP Photo/Al Behrman)