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Schedule analysis: Pittsburgh

Since I had a lot of Louisville content on Tuesday and again Wednesday, I'm skipping the Cardinals in the schedule analysis series for now. (Don't worry, Cards fans. We'll get back to you). So let's move ahead instead to Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh Panthers

Nonconference opponents (with 2010 records):

Sept. 3: Buffalo (2-10)

Sept. 10: Maine (4-7)

Sept. 17: at Iowa (8-5)

Sept. 24: Notre Dame (8-5)

Oct. 15: Utah (10-3)

Big East home games

Sept. 29: South Florida

Oct. 26: Connecticut

Nov. 5: Cincinnati

Dec. 3: Syracuse

Big East road games

Oct. 8: at Rutgers

Nov. 12: at Louisville

Nov. 25: at West Virginia

Gut-check time: The final three nonconference games. No one in the Big East is playing a harder out-of-league schedule, with three tough BCS opponents (Utah is in the Pac-12 now, and Notre Dame is for all intents and purposes an AQ team). Playing Iowa, Notre Dame, South Florida and Utah in a five-game span is as difficult a stretch as any league team will see in 2011.

Trap game: Oct. 8 at Rutgers. That's the one "easy" game in that five-game span mentioned above, and Pitt has had its share of difficulties with the Scarlet Knights in recent years. Plus, it's still a conference game on the road, and Rutgers now has three former Pittsburgh assistants on staff who will know the Panthers players' every tendency.

Snoozer: Maine. Can't fault Pitt for throwing an FCS team into this bunch, but with the biggies on deck, this game will feel like little more than a walk-through.

Good luck with that: The first real test for new coach Todd Graham comes on the road in Iowa City. It will be mighty interesting to see how his no-huddle offense matches up against Kirk Ferentz's defense.

Upset watch: Notre Dame. The Irish will come into the 2011 season with a lot of hype, but Pitt has played them very well recently and will get Notre Dame at home. And don't forget that Graham beat Brian Kelly in South Bend last year.

Final analysis: There's good news and bad news here. The bad news, of course, is that difficult nonconference schedule. The good news is that Pitt has a whopping eight home games, and since West Virginia is right down the road, the Panthers only have to get on a plane three times all season. After the Utah game, things do lighten up a bit. It won't be easy, and Graham will have to have his team ready to go by Week 3. But at least Panthers fans won't be bored by the home schedule.