“The Big East is very unpredictable,” Cincinnati running back Isaiah Pead said. “You can’t really call a game, which makes it fun. You don’t really have a powerhouse that seems to win every year.”
The players insist they’re mere pawns in this game. Their job is to win games regardless of what name is sprawled across the top of the conference standings.
West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith has spent the last two years learning to hate Pitt. The fact Pitt is leaving and possibly ending “The Backyard Brawl” series with the Mountaineers is something he can’t control.
“There’s already an incredible amount of animosity toward Pitt just for the fact that it’s a great rivalry,” Smith said. “And as far as Syracuse goes, they beat us last year, so we feel we owe those guys one. So there’s no added pressure or animosity toward those guys. We really couldn’t care less about the changes going on with conferences. We really can’t control it. The only thing we can control is what we do on the field.”
Perhaps the real animosity is saved for the ACC. The Big East is 3-1 against ACC schools this year, including Cincinnati’s 44-14 whipping of N.C. State on national TV last week.
It was a game that showcased Cincinnati’s blossoming offense under second-year coach Butch Jones and sent a message to the rest of the Big East that the Bearcats might be back after posting consecutive titles in 2008 and 2009 under Brian Kelly.
Consider Cincinnati another ingredient in what could be a very combustible conference race, one that gets blown up each week.
A competitive two months followed by a win in a Bowl Championship Series game by a school other than Pitt and Syracuse would certainly help the Big East’s hopes of keeping their automatic BCS bid.
Then again, maybe not. The college football landscape is changing so quickly these days, there’s little reason to hold a grudge.
Pitt wide receiver Mike Shanahan isn’t concerned about being targeted. He already assumed teams were out to beat the Panthers. Last he checked, Pitt could still win the Big East this year.
“I think we’re just as good as any of those other teams,” Shanahan said. “I think other teams see us as a threat. I don’t think anybody’s looking forward to playing us.”
AP Sports Writers Joe Kay in Cincinnati and John Kekis in Syracuse, NY contributed to this report. Follow AP Sports Writer Will Graves on twitter at http://www.twitter.com/WillGravesAP
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