Ranking Big East nonconference schedules

You have already heard me go on for quite some time about the difficulty of Syracuse's nonconference schedule.

But the Orange, with games against USC, Missouri, Northwestern and Minnesota, aren't the only ones with major tests out of league play. USF has to play Nevada, Florida State and Miami. Pitt has to play Notre Dame and Virginia Tech. Louisville has to head on the road to play defending Conference USA champ Southern Miss and Florida International, a team that beat the Cardinals last season. Kentucky also is on the schedule to open the year.

Generally speaking, the Big East tends to play tougher nonconference schedules than some of the other conferences. First, its teams have to play more nonconference games. And second, most all accept the challenges of playing a few marquee games, particularly because they can help boost national profiles.

So how do these out-of-conference schedules rank compared to the 60 other teams in automatic qualifying conferences? Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman decided to rank all 68 teams in AQ conferences to see how they stack up. You should not be surprised to see three Big East teams ranked in the top 10, second only to the ACC.

Note: Notre Dame is not included in these rankings, because Tramel only rates teams in the automatic qualifying conferences. If the Fighting Irish were included, they would get the hands-down No. 1 spot. Just check their schedule.

Here is where Tramel ranks all eight Big East schools.

2. Syracuse. The Orange are right behind Michigan, which plays Alabama, Air Force and Notre Dame in three of its four nonconference games. Tramel says of Syracuse: "I have to admit, I didn't know that schedules like this existed anymore. The Orange is playing four nonconference games against major-conference foes. Four!" Nonconference games: Northwestern, vs. USC, Stony Brook, at Minnesota, at Missouri.

6. USF. Tramel writes: "Excellent schedule by the Bulls. One automatic win. Two road games at mid-majors. Two games against traditional powers." Nonconference games: Chattanooga, at Nevada, at Ball State, Florida State, at Miami.

9. Pitt. Tramel writes: "The Panthers have to feel a little deprived. They keep losing traditional rivals." Nonconference games: Youngstown State, Virginia Tech, Gardner-Webb, at Buffalo, at Notre Dame.

The rest of the Big East:

No. 13. Louisville. Nonconference games: Kentucky, Missouri State, North Carolina, at FIU, at Southern Miss.

No. 23 Temple. Nonconference games: Villanova, Maryland, at Penn State, at Army.

No. 34 UConn. Nonconference games: UMass, NC State, at Maryland, at Western Michigan, Buffalo.

No. 41 Rutgers. Nonconference games: at Tulane, Howard, at Arkansas, Kent State, Army.

No. 45 Cincinnati. Nonconference games: Delaware State, vs. Virginia Tech, Miami (Ohio), Fordham, at Toledo.

You will also note that the Big East plays more traditional powers, and more nonconference games away from home, than the other five AQ conferences. It ranks second behind the ACC in percentage of games against national powers.