The Big East is locked in a constant battle for respect, even after a year in which two of its teams reached the Top 10 and one finished third in the final BCS standings. There's good football in this league, but the only way to convince the skeptics is to keep winning big games.
Fortunately for the Big East, several opportunities to do just that await this year. Here are five games in which the league can earn respect:
Miami at Pittsburgh, Sept. 23: This is a battle between two teams who should be among the favorites in the ACC and Big East, respectively. And it's on Big East turf. Pitt needs to win this game at home to carry the banner for the league.
Oklahoma at Cincinnati, Sept. 25: The Bearcats are heading downtown to Paul Brown Stadium for this showdown with the Sooners. Though Cincinnati played well for more than a half in Norman two years ago, Oklahoma still won 52-26. The two-time defending Big East champs must at least make this year's matchup more competitive to avoid hearing about their recent losses against the big boys (Virginia Tech, Florida, etc.).
West Virginia at LSU, Sept. 25: Nothing earns you more respect from pundits and fans at large than beating an SEC powerhouse at its place. The Mountaineers have their work cut out for them, but they also have a talented, veteran team that just may be able to pull off this upset.
North Carolina at Rutgers, Sept. 25: Is the week of Sept. 25 huge for the Big East or what? The Tar Heels have gotten a lot of preseason pub because of their talented defense. Rutgers is a defensive-minded team as well, and it gets this game at home. The Scarlet Knights have heard a lot about their weak schedules; this is an excellent opportunity to shut people up.
Connecticut at Michigan, Sept. 4: Michigan isn't the Michigan of old, but it's still a name brand. UConn has been seeking name recognition for a while now despite its recent success. Winning at the Big House could go a long way to putting the Huskies on the map.
Others: South Florida at Florida (Sept. 11) and at Miami (Nov. 27); Pitt at Utah (Sept. 2); Louisville at Oregon State (Sept. 18); Syracuse at Washington (Sept. 11) and versus Boston College (Nov. 27).