So which Big East team is shaping up to be a schedule winner?
Ryan McGee of ESPN The Magazine has an answer: Louisville. McGee listed the Top 10 teams he believes are (early) schedule winners, and the Cardinals are the only Big East team listed -- right at No. 10.
Their nonconference schedule includes games against Kentucky, Missouri State, North Carolina and FIU. He writes:
Their first three games are at home, two of which come against BCS teams Kentucky and North Carolina. Granted, those aren't great BCS teams, but they will count for something. And if Cincinnati loses early (which they could against Virginia Tech) and West Virginia bolts for the Big 12 (and the Mountaineers think they will), the Cardinals will be the team receiving the annual "we need to move a Big East representative up in the rankings" boost.
Let us keep in mind it is hard to evaluate Big East schedules right now because almost every team must add at least one more nonconference game to make up for TCU leaving for the Big 12. If West Virginia leaves for 2012, both the conference and nonconference schedules would be thrown off kilter.
To my knowledge, UConn is the only Big East team with five nonconference games currently scheduled for 2012. The Huskies have games set against UMass, NC State, Maryland, Western Michigan and Buffalo.
I actually think Rutgers has an easier road than Louisville, but the problem is it has no nonconference games against teams from automatic qualifying conferences as of today, and that is going to hurt strength of schedule. You can bet that is a big reason why the Scarlet Knights are working hard to secure a marquee opponent for its fifth opening. As it stands now, Rutgers has Kent State, Army, Howard and Tulane set for 2012.
I will have more on scheduling during the offseason, so stay tuned to the blog.
Cincinnati: Miami (Ohio), at Toledo, vs. Virginia Tech
UConn: UMass, NC State, at Maryland, at Western Michigan, Buffalo
Pitt: Youngstown State, Virginia Tech, at Buffalo, at Notre Dame
Rutgers: Kent State, Army, Howard, Tulane
Syracuse: Northwestern, USC, at Minnesota
USF: Chattanooga, at Ball State, Florida State, at Miami
West Virginia: Marshall, at Florida State, vs. James Madison, Maryland. (Note: WVU is trying to get out of its FSU game in anticipation of joining the Big 12 for 2012).