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Big East schedule rankings (cont.)

Posted: Thursday June 21, 2007 1:20PM; Updated: Thursday June 21, 2007 4:14PM
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By David Fox, Special to SI.com, Rivals.com

5. Cincinnati

Cincinnati schedule
Date Opponent
Aug. 30 (or Sept. 1) SE Missouri State
Sept. 6 Oregon State
Sept. 15 at Miami (Ohio)
Sept. 22 Marshall
Sept. 29 at SD State
Oct. 6 at Rutgers
Oct. 13 Louisville
Oct. 20 at Pittsburgh
Nov. 3 at South Florida
Nov. 10 Connecticut
Nov. 17 West Virginia
Nov. 24 at Syracuse

Behind the ranking: Like South Florida, Cincinnati gets Louisville and West Virginia at home and Rutgers on the road. However, the Bearcats' toughest nonconference game is a Sept. 6 home date with Oregon State. Other than the game against the Beavers, Cincinnati has a manageable nonconference slate with road games against rival Miami (Ohio) and San Diego State and home games against Division I-AA Southeast Missouri State and Marshall.

Toughest game: Cincinnati opens its Big East season against a team and a town looking for revenge. The Bearcats spoiled Rutgers' 9-0 start to the season with a 30-11 win in 2006. Look for Rutgers to be fired up (and possibly undefeated again) in the Big East opener for the teams when UC comes to Piscataway.

Cakewalk: It's tough to call the first regular-season game under a new coaching staff a cakewalk, but Brian Kelly's crew should still cruise in its opener against Division I-AA Southeast Missouri State (4-7) on Aug. 30.

Trap game: A home game against Connecticut (4-8) on Nov. 10 is sandwiched between a road trip to South Florida and a home game against West Virginia -- a rare game with an opportunity for both a let-down and look-ahead factor.

Changes from last season: Cincinnati managed to win eight games last season despite road trips to Ohio State and Virginia Tech. The Bearcats trade those games for a home game against Oregon State (10-4) and an inexplicable road trip to San Diego State (3-9).

6. Syracuse

Syracuse schedule
Date Opponent
Aug. 31 Washington
Sept. 8 at Iowa
Sept. 15 Illinois
Sept. 22 at Louisville
Sept. 29 at Miami (Ohio)
Oct. 6 West Virginia
Oct. 13 Rutgers
Oct. 20 Buffalo
Nov. 3 at Pittsburgh
Nov. 10 USF
Nov. 17 at Connecticut
Nov. 24 Cincinnati

Behind the ranking: Syracuse is the only team in the Big East that can say it will face three teams from BCS leagues in its out-of-conference schedule. Trouble is, those BCS teams are Washington (5-7), Iowa (6-7) and Illinois (2-10). Throw in a couple of non-BCS patsies that went a combined 4-20 last year -- Miami (Ohio) and Buffalo -- and this is a schedule that at least gives the Orange a chance to compete for a bowl game. Syracuse has to face Big East front-runners Louisville, West Virginia and Rutgers during a four-week span from Sept. 22-Oct. 13.

Toughest game: Syracuse's first game against a winning team is a doozy. The Orange go to Papa John's Stadium on Sept. 22 to face Louisville, a team that beat Syracuse 28-13 last season.

Cakewalk: Syracuse won't play a Division I-AA team this year, but will get the next best thing -- a home game with Buffalo (2-10) on Oct. 20.

Trap game: Syracuse beat 2-10 Miami (Ohio) 34-14 last year, but a trip to Oxford, Ohio, this year could be trouble. The nonconference game is sandwiched between the road trip to Louisville and a homestand with West Virginia and Rutgers.

Changes from last season: Syracuse's schedule got a little easier by trading a road trip to ACC champion Wake Forest for a home game against Washington. The Orange, much better in the Carrier Dome last year, will get West Virginia and Rutgers at home this season. The two teams hosted Syracuse last season and combined to beat the Orange 79-24 .

7. Rutgers

Rutgers schedule
Date Opponent
Aug. 30 Buffalo
Sept. 7 Navy
Sept. 15 Norfolk State
Sept. 29 Maryland
Oct. 6 Cincinnati
Oct. 13 at Syracuse
Oct. 18 USF
Oct. 27 West Virginia
Nov. 3 at Connecticut
Nov. 9 at Army
Nov. 17 Pittsburgh
Nov. 29 at Louisville

Behind the ranking: Rutgers has the opportunity for another long, undefeated stretch to start the season. The Scarlet Knights began the 2006 season with nine consecutive wins. Their first five games of 2007 are at home. The nonconference schedule includes Buffalo (2-10), Division I-AA Norfolk State (4-7) and Army (3-9), but also two nine-win bowl teams in Navy and Maryland. The Scarlet Knights will play the two teams that beat them last year (Cincinnati and West Virginia) at home.

Toughest game: The regular-season finale at Louisville could be for the Big East crown, or it could simply be for revenge for the Cardinals. Rutgers handed Louisville its first loss in 2006 and knocked the Cardinals out of the national championship picture with a 28-25 win.

Cakewalk: Rutgers should start the year 3-0 by playing Buffalo, Navy and Norfolk State at home. Sure, Navy won nine games last year, but the Scarlet Knights demolished Navy 34-0 in Annapolis last season.

Trap game: Rutgers goes to Syracuse on Oct. 13, a week after facing Cincinnati -- the team that ended its undefeated (9-0) start last year. The Scarlet Knights face the Orange just before a homestand against South Florida and West Virginia -- two teams that could contend for the Big East title. A loss in the Carrier Dome could knock Rutgers out of the conference race early.

Changes from last season: The game against Maryland is an upgrade after the Terrapins went 9-4 last year, but it's not the nonconference game you want to make a statement. The game with the Terps at least offsets dropping MAC runner-up Ohio for doormat Buffalo. The Scarlet Knights also replace a road trip to North Carolina with a game at West Point.

8. Connecticut

Connecticut schedule
Date Opponent
Sept. 1 at Duke
Sept. 8 Maine
Sept. 15 Temple
Sept. 22 at Pittsburgh
Sept. 29 Akron
Oct. 13 at Virginia
Oct. 20 Louisville
Oct. 27 USF
Nov. 3 Rutgers
Nov. 10 at Cincinnati
Nov. 17 Syracuse
Nov. 24 at West Virginia

Behind the ranking: How can a schedule containing Buffalo, Army and Norfolk State get easier? Connecticut found a way. The Huskies' opener at Duke (0-12) will have you pining for basketball season. That is followed by home games against Maine (6-5) and Temple (1-11). The Huskies won't face a 2006 bowl team until an Oct. 20 game against Louisville in East Hartford. The Huskies won't face a bowl team on the road until a Nov. 10 trip to Cincinnati. UConn "lucked out" with a conference schedule that includes a three-game homestand against Louisville, South Florida and Rutgers.

Toughest game: The Huskies end their season with a Nov. 24 road trip to West Virginia. If this game is for bowl eligibility, coach Randy Edsall might feel that seat getting hot.

Cakewalk: Laugh at Maine if you want, but at 6-5 the Black Bears are the only team in UConn's first six games that posted a winning record last year. In games even ESPNU wouldn't touch, Connecticut faces Duke, Maine and Temple in its first three contests.

Trap game: After that opening with that gauntlet, UConn goes on the road to Pittsburgh (6-6).

How it compares to last year: The Huskies dropped two opponents they lost to last year in Wake Forest and Navy. However, they won't be able to count a road win against Indiana this season.

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