Connecticut and Louisville come into Saturday's Big East showdown in the thick of the conference championship free-for-all.
The Huskies (4-5, 2-2) host the Cardinals (5-5, 3-2) in what amounts to an elimination game between teams that could end their seasons in bowl games or with losing records.
A year ago the Huskies were 3-4 after losing to Louisville, but finished the season with five consecutive wins to earn a Fiesta Bowl bid.
"It just takes us back to that point in time," UConn linebacker Sio Moore said. "We had to win those games that were big. So now we have three big games, starting with Louisville this week that we have to make sure we capitalize and do what we have to do to get where we want to go. Because our goals are still in front of us."
The Cardinals have the same goals. Louisville began the year 2-4, but won three straight before falling to Pittsburgh 21-14 last week.
"We've made gigantic steps and maybe we've come too fast, too soon," Coach Charlie Strong said. "But still, though, you're expected to go play well. You look at teams out there — West Virginia, Pitt, anybody can still go win this league right now."
If Louisville wins and Rutgers beats Cincinnati on Saturday, there would be a three-way tie among those teams for first place in the Big East. If Connecticut wins, the Huskies would be tied for second place in the league, with two conference games to play.
WKU still eyes league title
Coach Willie Taggart isn't concerned whether a seven-win season guarantees Western Kentucky a bowl bid; his goal is to win a Sun Belt title.
"We came in saying we wanted to win the Sun Belt championship," Taggart said. "We know we have to win these next two ball games to at least have a chance."
The Hilltoppers (5-5, 5-1) will also need some help.
With Arkansas State still undefeated in league play, WKU has to win out in games over North Texas (4-6, 3-3) and Troy while the Red Wolves lose two straight for the Hilltoppers to clinch an outright Sun Belt title.
Saturday's game will mark the last time two of the Sun Belt's top-five all-time rushers clash as seniors — WKU's Bobby Rainey and North Texas' Lance Dunbar.
■ WKU released its punishment of defensive coordinator Lance Guidry, who was charged with driving while intoxicated last Saturday in Louisiana. Guidry must pay a $4,500 donation — equal to one month's net pay — to a local charity and complete 10 hours of community service at a local charity. Guidry also must reimburse WKU for the rental car he was driving in Baton Rouge, attend mandatory counseling with a WKU employee assistance program and forfeit use of his university-leased vehicle. He will work under a zero-tolerance policy and will not be eligible for a base salary increase in 2012.
Mizzou coach sentenced
Suspended Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel pleaded guilty in Columbia, Mo., to a misdemeanor charge of drunken driving Friday and received a 30-day suspended sentence along with two years' probation.
Pinkel, 59, was arrested in Columbia on Wednesday night and suspended without pay the next day for the final home game of the season against Texas Tech on Saturday. He is expected to return for the final regular-season game against Kansas.
South Carolina: Running back Marcus Lattimore had surgery Thursday to repair a ligament in his knee. The sophomore all-Southeastern Conference runner tore a ligament and suffered cartilage damage while blocking for a teammate on Oct. 15 against Mississippi State when a defensive player fell and rolled on his leg.
Washington: Nick Montana, son of Hall of Famer Joe Montana, will get his first start when Washington plays at Oregon State on Saturday, subbing for Keith Price, who sprained his left knee last week at Southern Cal.
Montana, a redshirt freshman, has played in four games, but has thrown just one pass in a non-mop-up role. That, though, only whetted the appetite of many fans to see what he might be able to do in a full four quarters when he completed a 53-yarder to Kasen Williams against Oregon.
Syracuse: Safety Phillip Thomas has been suspended for one year for a violation of athletics department policy. The university offered no further explanation in a one-sentence email.
Thomas leads the Orange (5-5, 1-4 Big East) in tackles with 82 and ranks first in the Big East with six interceptions.