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A win Saturday doesn't guarantee the Huskies a bowl bid

Storrs - Coming off its most complete effort of the season in last Saturday's win over Rutgers, the UConn football team has put itself in a position to become bowl-eligible for the fifth straight season.

But even a win at Cincinnati in the final regular season game on Saturday (noon, ESPN) doesn't guarantee UConn a bowl berth.

Four Big East teams are already bowl-eligible: Louisville (which has wrapped up at least a share of the regular season title), Cincinnati, West Virginia and Rutgers. The Bearcats would clinch a share with a win over UConn.

West Virginia would also earn a share of the Big East crown with a win over South Florida on Thursday, but the Bulls would join the bowl-eligible teams with an upset win.

Syracuse and Pittsburgh play each other on Saturday and the winner of that game will also become bowl-eligible.

Wins by UConn and South Florida would make seven Big East teams eligible for the postseason.

The Big East is tied to seven bowl games, including its automatic BCS bid (most likely the Orange Bowl), but Notre Dame could be selected in place of a Big East team in the Champ Sports Bowl (Dec. 29, Orlando, Fla.).

If that happens and seven Big East schools qualify for bowl games, one school is probably going to be left home for the holidays.

The Big East's other bowl ties are the Belk Bowl (Dec. 27 in Charlotte vs. an ACC opponent), the Pinstripe Bowl (Dec. 30, Yankee Stadium, Big 12), BBVA Compass Bowl (Jan. 7, Birmingham, SEC), Liberty Bowl (Dec. 31, Memphis, Conference USA) and the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl (Dec. 20, St. Petersburg, CUSA).

All of this would be moot if UConn doesn't beat the Bearcats on Saturday.

"You can't get distracted," UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni said during his weekly media luncheon on Tuesday. "I don't think you muddy the water at all. We have to focus on what we have to do to prepare to play this game. Everybody knows what the consequences are. I'm not going to bring it up. There's no need to bring it up."

Pasqualoni led Syracuse to six bowl wins in his 14 years as head coach, including two Fiesta Bowl wins and an Orange Bowl win.

"Bowls are good for everybody," Pasqualoni said. "The bowl experience is very positive. They're good for the kids, good for exposure for the program and the institution. You always want to play one more game."

Notes

Redshirt freshman Lyle McCombs is second nationally among freshmen running backs with 100.82 yards per game. Only North Carolina's Giovani Bernard is ahead of McCombs (101.83). … Junior defensive end Trevardo Williams, a Bridgeport native, has nine sacks in his past four games, including four Saturday against Rutgers, and is now second in the country at 1.14 per-game, behind only Illinois' Whitney Mercilus. … UConn held Rutgers to minus-9 yards rushing on 26 carries and is now third in the country in rushing defense (84.18 yards per game), behind just Alabama and Florida State.

o.poole@theday.com

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