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Ranking the nonconference schedules

Now that our 2011 schedule analysis series is complete, it's time to take a look at who has the most difficult nonconference slates. Here is my ranking:

1. Pittsburgh

Opponents combined record: 32-30 (.516)

Toughest game: at Iowa

BCS opponents: 3

2010 bowl teams: 3

The skinny: Easily the toughest grind, with games against Iowa, Utah and Notre Dame.

2. West Virginia

Opponents combined record: 33-28 (.541)

Toughest game: LSU

BCS opponents: 2

2010 bowl teams: 2

The skinny: LSU is the hardest opponent on a Big East schedule this year. On paper.

3. Cincinnati

Opponents combined record: 28-35 (.444)

Toughest game: at Tennessee

BCS opponents: 2

2010 bowl teams: 3

The skinny: Rough game in Knoxville, tricky visit from NC State and potentially pesky game against Miami of Ohio -- a 10-win team a year ago -- gives Bearcats slight nod for third.

4. South Florida

Opponents combined record: 33-29 (.532)

Toughest game: at Notre Dame

BCS opponents: 2

2010 bowl teams: 3

The skinny: Opening at Notre Dame and playing Miami in November is no picnic.

5. Syracuse

Opponents combined record: 28-33 (.459)

Toughest game: at USC

BCS opponents: 2

2010 bowl teams: 2

The skinny: Down year in 2010 for opening opponent Wake Forest pushes this one a bit down the list.

6. Louisville

Opponents combined record: 32-30 (.516)

Toughest game: at North Carolina

BCS opponents: 2

2010 bowl teams: 3

The skinny: Kentucky and North Carolina aren't the heaviest of heavyweights, unless we're talking basketball.

7. Rutgers

Opponents combined record: 35-28 (.556)

Toughest game: at North Carolina

BCS opponents: 1

2010 bowl teams: 4

The skinny: Only one BCS opponent, though Army and Navy may pose challenges.

8. Connecticut

Opponents combined record: 20-39 (.339)

Toughest game: Iowa State

BCS opponents: 2

2010 bowl teams: 0

The skinny: With only Iowa State and Vanderbilt as BCS opponents and no 2010 bowl teams, this schedule is as tailor-made for success as it gets.