Here's the seventh installment of a series examining the most crucial stretches of the schedule for each Big East team.
Louisville is lined up today.
Key stretch: at Syracuse (Nov. 6), South Florida (Nov. 13), West Virginia (Nov. 20)
Breakdown: For the Cardinals to have any shot at reaching a bowl game in Charlie Strong's first year, they're going to have to find at least two Big East wins somewhere. And this stretch probably presents their best chances.
The Syracuse-Louisville game has basically been a toss-up the past three years, with the Cardinals breaking a two-game losing streak last season with an ugly home win. Even though it's on the road, this year's game provides one of the few conference contests where Louisville will have nearly equal talent as its opponent. South Florida comes to town a week later with history on Strong's side: the Bulls have never won in Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, dating back to their Conference USA days. The Cards' lone 2008 Big East victory happened against USF at home.
The West Virginia game is a long shot at best, but at least it's a rivalry game at home. Perhaps Louisville -- which pushed the Mountaineers to the wire last year in Morgantown -- can gain some momentum and confidence by the time this game rolls around.
Prediction: Strong has his work cut out for him. If you were making the odds right now, you wouldn't favor Louisville in any of these games. I don't see the Cardinals going winless in the Big East this year, though; I'll bet they sneak one of these out, either at Syracuse or against South Florida, for a 1-2 record in this stretch.
More key stretches: