It wasn't long ago that everyone was ready to bury Syracuse.
Now look. Syracuse is back in the Big East title chase after last week's 40-10 victory over West Virginia on national television. The win was the fifth straight for the Orangemen, who started 1-3.
Virginia Tech (6-2) leads the Big East with a 4-1 record. Syracuse (6-3) is next at 3-1. They are the only teams with just one conference loss. Also in the title hunt are West Virginia, Pittsburgh and Miami, each with two losses.
Saturday's Miami-Virginia Tech game will help shape the conference standings. Everybody will pay attention to that game _ especially Syracuse. If the Orangemen beat Boston College, they need only to defeat Pittsburgh and Miami to gain at least a share of the league title.
RUN, BABY, RUN: What's wrong with this picture: The league had seven 100-yard rushers Saturday, and West Virginia's Amos Zereoue wasn't among them.
The 100-yard club: Pittsburgh's Dwayne Shulters (193), Temple's Stacey Mack (164), Miami's Edgerrin James (151) and James Jackson (115), Syracuse's Kyle McIntosh (145), Boston College's Mike Cloud (117) and Virginia Tech's Lamont Pegues (100).
Zereoue, the league's top rusher at 149.9 yards per game, had 71 yards against Syracuse.
LIFE IN THE PITTS: Just when things were going well for Pittsburgh, along came reality. The Panthers started 3-1 but have dropped back to 4-4. The latest loss was most disheartening _ 22-21 against Boston College. The loss dealt Pittsburgh's bowl chances a severe blow. The Panthers must win at least two of their final three games to qualify, and that won't be easy. Those games are against Syracuse, Virginia and West Virginia.
"The players are sick to their stomachs because the game was there for us to win," Pitt coach Walt Harris said. "When your program is going well, you have a way of finishing people off. Obviously when you're only eight or nine months into a program, it's hard to have that feeling."
GETTING HIS KICKS: Fairness came to Boston College kicker John Matich in the nick of time. Matich was having a horrible day against Pittsburgh, missing field-goal attempts of 40 and 38 yards, and an extra point. When the game was on the line, however, Matich delivered, kicking a 35-yard field goal in a driving rainstorm with 1:31 left to seal the Eagles' victory.
"You want to have that chance," Matich said. "You want to go out and show them that you can do it."
CONFERENCE CHATTER: Syracuse QB Donovan McNabb holds the school record for career touchdown passes. McNabb had three TD passes last week against West Virginia, giving him 50. The record of 48 had belonged to Marvin Graves. Temple's 49-7 win against Rutgers was the largest margin of victory for the Owls since 42-0 over William and Mary in 1981. Syracuse WR Kevin Johnson lost to McNabb in the quarterback competition two years ago, but he still likes showing off his arm. Against West Virginia, Johnson threw a 50-yard touchdown to Jim Turner. Virginia Tech's defense had a record performance against Alabama-Birmingham. The Hokies established Tech lows for fewest yards allowed (65) and passing yards allowed (48). Said UAB coach Watson Brown: "No one has pushed us around like that since I've been here. That's the best team I've faced in two years."
_ CHARLES MULLING