One way for the league to earn some national respect would be for a few of the teams to go out and get a couple of non-conference wins against respectable opponents.
Unfortunately, zero teams from the Big East conference had a strength of schedule ranking that was in Phil Steele’s top 25. Here is how I ranked the out of conference schedules in the Big East.
Syracuse easily had the toughest out-of-conference schedule in my opinion. The fact that they play preseason #1 USC had a lot to do with it, but the Orange play a couple of other respectable opponents as well. Northwestern and Minnesota aren’t predicted to have great seasons, but having two Big 10 opponents on the schedule speaks for itself. First year SEC member Missouri also helps strengthen Syracuse’s non conference schedule. Stonybrook is the only non BCS team on their schedule this season.
2. South Florida:
-9-22: Ball State
-9-29: Florida State
South Florida’s toughest game will obviously be against in-state rival Florida State who is the preseason favorite to win the ACC. Miami is slightly down, but still a respectable opponent. Nevada doesn’t seem like a tough game to the average college football fan, but the Wolf Pack is good enough to knock off Boise State as the Mountain West’s top team.
-9-8: Missouri State
-9-15: North Carolina
-9-22: Florida International
-9-29: Southern Mississippi
Louisville shouldn’t have much trouble in any of their out of conference games this season, but I do think their opponents will be a tougher than some expect. North Carolina is the top out of conference team on the schedule. I realize the ACC is an overrated league, but the Tar Heels are the projected favorite for the Coastal Division. Florida International and Southern Miss will likely take a slight step back from last season, but both teams are still contenders to win their conference. Getting a win over Kentucky won’t do much for the S.O.S. but the fact that they’re in the SEC can’t hurt.
-9-8: NC State
-9-22: Western Michigan
The Huskies have two ACC opponents on the schedule in North Carolina State and Maryland. While Maryland is supposed to be awful this season, NC State should be one of the better teams in the league. Surprisingly, UConn will face three MAC opponents in 2012. Buffalo and UMass are two of the worst teams in the conference; however Western Michigan is a preseason favorite.
-9-15: Virginia Tech
-9-22: Gardener Webb
-11-03: Notre Dame
Virginia Tech is expected to be one of the better teams in the ACC. Notre Dame isn’t an elite level team, but they could possibly be in the top 25 when Pittsburgh travels to South Bend in November. The rest of Pitt’s out-of-conference opponents are pretty weak.
-10-27: Kent State
I put Rutgers at #6 simply because they have to travel to Arkansas on September 22nd. Rutgers is the only other team in the league, outside of Syracuse, who has an elite level team on their schedule. Kent State is a middle of the pack MAC team, but other than that Rutgers’ schedule is pretty soft.
-9-15: Delaware State
-9-29: Virginia Tech
-10-6: Miami (OH)
Virginia Tech is the only real test on the schedule for Cincinnati. Miami of Ohio is one of the top five teams in the MAC, but shouldn’t give the Bearcats too much trouble. The rest of the schedule is pretty dreadful.
-9-22: Penn State
The Big East’s newest member will only play four out of conference games in their first season back with the league. Penn State is down, but still a respectable name on the schedule. Maryland is a middle of the pack ACC team. Villanova and Army should be cake walks for Temple.