Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
Jason from Elmira, N.Y., writes: Hey Brian, great job this year on the blog! What are your top Big East nonconference games, and which one could be a huge turning point for the conference? Cincinnati has two big ones with Illinois and Oregon State. UConn and Pitt have Notre Dame. WVU has Auburn, Colorado, and East Carolina. UL has Kentucky and Utah. Rutgers has Maryland. Syracuse has Penn State and Northwestern. And USF perhaps has the biggest with Miami and Florida State. Which games are you looking forward to?
Brian Bennett: Good question, and we'll be taking a look at 2009 schedules shortly. Don't expect Big East schedules to be finished until late next month, and a few schools haven't lined up all their games yet. If I had to pick a handful of nonconference games I'm most intrigued by right now, I'd start here:
• South Florida at Florida State: This will give us an early idea whether the Bulls are for real in 2009, as FSU should have a pretty good team next year.
• Cincinnati at Oregon State: Tough trip across the country for the Bearcats against a team that humbled Pitt in the Brut Sun Bowl. Cincinnati will be very young on defense and will have to try and handle the Rodgers brothers.
• Pitt at N.C. State: The Wolfpack should be improved under Russell Wilson, and we'll find out where Pitt is without LeSean McCoy.
• West Virginia at Auburn: Sure, Auburn might be rebuilding a bit under its new coaching staff, but anytime a Big East team travels to SEC country, it's a big deal. And the league has won its last two showdowns against the Tigers.
Matt from Port Monmouth, N.J., writes: As far as I can tell Rutgers only has 2 out-of-conference games scheduled (Maryland, Army). What's the word on possible opponents to fill out the the other games? Could we see them play two or more BCS opponents?
Brian Bennett: Rutgers is still in talks to fill out the schedule, similar to the situation it found itself in last year when Fresno State was a late addition. I think you'll see at least one high-profile matchup, probably brokered by TV, and probably a game against an FCS school to round things out.
Clay from Cincinnati writes: After briefly reading about the NCAA giving Patrick Pinkney a 6th year to play college football, I'm extremely upset. Ben Mauk was denied his 6th year and injury was the same cause for Mauk's request. Can you possibly explain why Mauk's request was denied, but Pinkney's granted? Tough to stomach this as a Bearcat fan.
Brian Bennett: Then you probably didn't like seeing that South Florida quarterback Grant Gregory was given a sixth year, either. I don't know all the details of the Pinkney case, but I can tell you that Mauk's issue, from the NCAA's perspective, was that he did not have proper documentation on his injury during his first year at Wake Forest. Without that, the NCAA wouldn't budge.
Justin from New Jersey writes: Hey, Brian, I know you're not terribly into the whole recruiting thing, but I gotta disagree with you about the strength of Rutgers' recruiting class. Rutgers has been out-recruited in New Jersey by both Pitt and Penn St. and overall has a worse Scout.com ranking than both (Pitt #28, Rutgers #36). I think you definitely have to take another long look at Pitt's. They haven't landed another Jonathan Baldwin, but with another committment or 2 will have another top 25 recruiting class. With the number of decommitments Rutgers has had, they are fighting for the 4th best Big East class along with Cincy. Most importantly they haven't closed off the New Jersey border only landing 5 NJ recruits.
Brian Bennett: First of all, keep in mind that those class rankings came not from me but from our Scouts Inc. national recruiting director, Tom Luginbill. I don't watch high school players, so I would have no way to rank these classes or prospects. And it's all very subjective. You may be right that Pitt's class is better than Rutgers' group, but we won't really know the answer to that for a few years when we see how these players develop. I do think Pitt is filling a lot of needs in this class, though there don't seem to be many superstar skill players in this particular group.