Now that the Big East has finally released its 2013 football schedule, here are some first impressions on the upcoming slate.
Louisville is clearly the marquee team to watch this year, and the schedule makers treated the Cardinals that way. They have at least four games set for national television -- all midweek games, all against Big East competition. The first is against Rutgers on Thurs., Oct. 10. In 2012, the two teams met on the final weekend of the regular season with a BCS berth on the line. Rather than duplicate that schedule this year, Louisville will end the season at Cincinnati on Thurs., Dec. 5, in what could be the final matchup between the two longtime rivals.
Speaking of rivals, I applaud what the Big East did with its biggest rivalry games in 2013. The league scheduled them to end the season. First, USF plays at UCF and SMU plays at Houston on Nov. 29. The Big East should work hard to build up these two rivalries, as these four teams remain in the league for the foreseeable future. The following week features the Keg of Nails game between Louisville and Cincinnati. There are so many juicy subplots in that game, especially since these two teams are expected to start the season at the top of the league. The Big East would like to remind you that in each of the last four years, its BCS representative has been determined in the last week of the season.
Five of the league's 10 games in Week 1 are being played on either Thursday or Friday. Of those five, two are very intriguing -- Rutgers at Fresno State on Thurs., Aug. 29, and Texas Tech at SMU on Fri., Aug. 30 at 8 p.m. on ESPN.
Temple has a tough two-game opening stretch. The Owls start the season at Notre Dame on Aug. 31. The following week, they open Big East play against Houston -- the first league game of 2013. In fact, Houston and Temple are the only two teams to have a conference game in the month of September.
Biggest nonconference day? That would be Sept. 21, when Michigan plays at UConn, Arkansas travels to play Rutgers and SMU is at Texas A&M. Michigan and Texas A&M are expected to be ranked in the Top 25. Meanwhile, Rutgers will be hosting an SEC opponent on its campus for the first time in school history.
Interestingly enough, the Big East has more matchups against the Big Ten (five) and SEC (four) than the ACC (three), traditionally the conference it plays the most.
Only Houston, Memphis and Temple have nonconference games in the middle of Big East play.
Only a handful of games have been designated with a start time and TV network. There will be many more games selected for national television at a time to be determined.