Lieberman: A lot needs to fall into place if Pitt and Penn State are to play in a bowl game

By Randy Lieberman

From Paternoville to “Turn It Blue,” what do Pitt and Penn State have to lose?

A possible… From Paternoville to “Turn It Blue,” what do Pitt and Penn State have to lose?

A possible meeting between the two classic giants of Pennsylvania college football would surely create a buzz throughout this great state. There are even some brainiacs out there predicting Pitt is going to meet Penn State in this year’s Fiesta Bowl.

Not so fast, my friend.

While I am a college football purist, one up for the renewal of a great rivalry, there are about 99 percent of BCS officials and athletic directors who are not purists, nor optimists, nor Pennsylvania-football enthusiasts.

There are many things that would have to happen perfectly to allow for this matchup. Let’s look at exactly what this grand scheme entails.

Pitt and Penn State, along with Iowa, must win out, putting Iowa in the Rose Bowl ahead of Penn State, which lost to Iowa. Texas must win out, sliding from the Big 12’s slot in the Fiesta Bowl into the national championship game. Florida or Alabama has to win out to remove one from the SEC’s slot in the Sugar Bowl and put it into the national championship game against Texas.

If Florida and Texas (Big 12 champions in this example) are ranked No. 1 and 2, then the Sugar Bowl picks first because it lost a higher-rated team in Florida, followed by the Fiesta and then the Orange Bowl. If Texas is No. 1 and Florida No. 2, then the Fiesta has first pick followed by the Sugar. The Orange, which has a tie-in to take the ACC champion, is third because of the unlikelihood of the ACC champion playing for the national title.

Keep in mind the amount of variables and teams involved here. All in all, there are still more than four weeks of football to be played to decide all of this.

Here’s where it becomes delicate.

The Sugar Bowl will likely take Alabama, assuming it picks first and the Crimson Tide loses the SEC title game to Florida. The Fiesta would be next, and it would not be mandated, but would be highly encouraged. to take another BCS-eligible Big 12 team to replace Texas.

But Oklahoma State, the only Big 12 team within BCS eligibility at No. 14, plays Texas this weekend and would surely drop after a loss.

That leaves Penn State, who is virtually free to roam because of no commitment to the Rose Bowl, and who has a favorable relationship with the Fiesta committee.

The Orange would have the next pick, and it could pick Pitt to play its ACC Champion in Miami to end the Pitt-Penn State matchup dreams.

But the Fiesta could be left to choose between non-BCS teams such as TCU and Boise State, or Pitt.

You see my point here? It could happen, in a perfect world, in a Pennsylvania-football aficionado’s world. But with so many variables viable to throw this system into complete disarray, it looks like Pitt fans are going to have to wait until Joe Paterno retires to get a crack at the Nittany Lions.

Oh wait, that’s never going to happen.

Pitt Football Question of the Week:

In honor of Pitt’s blowout win over South Florida last weekend, tell me, what was the largest margin of victory Pitt has ever had over an opponent?

Last Week’s Answer: Thank you to junior Elijah Taylor, who correctly answered that redshirt junior defensive back Ricky Gary is a cousin of Arizona Cardinals receiver Anquan Boldin.

Big East player of the week (Offense):

Noel Devine, West Virginia – The first back-to-back-to-back winner of the award, Devine ran for 178 yards and a touchdown against Connecticut.

Big East player of the week (Defense):

Walter Stewart, Cincinnati – Stewart led a Cincinnati defense, with 10 tackles and an interception, that manhandled Louisville’s offense.

Rankings of Power – Through Week 8

1. Cincinnati (7-0, 3-0 Big East): The Bearcats won 41-10 last weekend against Louisville and dropped from No. 5 to No. 8 in the BCS standings. They fell behind Iowa (4), USC (5) and TCU (6), but only Iowa deserved to slide ahead of the Bearcats. That’s a big slap to the face of the Big East.

2. Pitt (7-1, 4-0): Pitt is set up nicely with three of its last four games, arguably the toughest stretch of its schedule, at Heinz Field.

3. West Virginia (6-1, 2-0): The Mountaineer fans — and I’ll save personal experiences for another time — get a lot of bad rap for their behavior. But with the multiple tributes to Connecticut’s Jasper Howard last weekend, they showed me a new level of class.

4. South Florida (5-2, 1-2): Pitt destroyed the Bulls. Now they must figure out how to get freshman quarterback BJ Daniels back on track.

5. Connecticut (4-3, 1-2): Connecticut, I think, would lose a head-to-head matchup against the Bulls, who — lest we forget — did beat Florida State. We’ll find out in the last game of the season, but for now, the Huskies stay at No. 5.

6. Rutgers (5-2, 0-2): The Scarlet Knights haven’t done anything to impress anyone. A 17-point victory at Army last week doesn’t convince me they have what it takes to win a Big East road game.

7. Syracuse (3-4, 0-2): Syracuse still could become bowl eligible this season, but it’ll take three wins in its last five games to do it. The games are Cincinnati, at Pitt, at Louisville, Rutgers and at Connecticut.

8. Louisville (2-5, 0-3): The Cardinals are the underdog at home against Arkansas State. That’s a Sun Belt Conference team, for the record. How much worse can it get for Louisville?

Week 9 Preview

No. 21 West Virginia at South Florida: South Florida comes in limping, and the Mountaineers need to keep pace with Pitt and Cincinnati with a win here.

No. 8 Cincinnati at Syracuse: Last time the Bearcats went to Syracuse, they scored 52 points. Wide receiver Mardy Gilyard is going to run wild in the secondary.

Rutgers (5-2, 0-2) at Connecticut (4-3, 1-2): Both teams are fighting for a Big East bowl spot and need to win this swing game.

Arkansas State (2-4) at Louisville (2-5, 0-3): Can Louisville upset the Red Wolves at home?

Bye: Pittsburgh

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