I continue my team-by-team look at each schedule in the Big East.
Up today: Syracuse.
Nonconference schedule: As we have already discussed on the blog, Syracuse has one of the toughest nonconference schedules in the nation, with contests against four teams from AQ leagues. The toughest will be its game against USC on Sept. 8 at MetLife Stadium. Northwestern, Minnesota and Missouri are also on the slate, a huge test for a team that has a lot of improvement to make. Missouri was added in order to get the Orange another game because of the scheduling problems every team in the league faced. Whether you agree or not, the decision was a bold one, especially since it is on the road Nov. 17, a week before the finale against Temple.
Conference schedule: Syracuse only gets three Big East games at home this season, and that includes Louisville. But the Orange have to go play at USF and Cincinnati in back-to-back weeks, and also must face Rutgers on the road as well. Syracuse generally does well on Friday nights, and there are two league games scheduled for that weeknight -- the opener against Pitt, and UConn on Oct. 19, both at home.
Good news: It's not all bleak for Syracuse. Minnesota and Northwestern are winnable games, as neither team right now is projected in the top half of the Big Ten. There is a bye before Big East play begins at home against a Pitt team that also is trying to find its footing. And despite the backbreaking schedule, playing teams from the Pac-12, SEC and Big Ten does nothing but help national exposure. Especially that game against USC, a team expected to be ranked in the top 5 when they play. Four games are already scheduled for national television, including that game against the Trojans. In order to be the best, you have to beat the best, and this schedule lines up that way for the Orange.
Bad news: On the flip side, you could argue that the worst thing a team coming off a losing season is a difficult nonconference schedule. All four of those games are going to be huge tests. Having to play at Missouri is less than ideal. Especially since it's toward the end of the season, when you have to take focus away from conference play. Syracuse also ends the year with four of its final five games on the road, a difficult proposition for any team. Only five games are in the Carrier Dome this season.
Best case: Syracuse can pull an upset against either USC or Missouri and go 4-1 in nonconference play, while surprising a few teams in the Big East to go 8-4.
Worst case: The nonconference schedule takes a big toll and Syracuse goes 5-7 again.