Here's the second installment of my series looking at each Big East team's 2011 schedule:
Nonconference opponents (with 2010 records):
Sept. 1: Fordham (5-6)
Sept. 10: at Vanderbilt (2-10)
Sept. 16: Iowa State (5-7)
Sept. 24: at Buffalo (2-10)
Oct. 1: Western Michigan (6-6)
Big East home games
Oct. 15: South Florida
Nov. 5: Syracuse
Nov. 19: Louisville
Nov. 26: Rutgers
Big East road games
Oct. 8: at West Virginia
Oct. 26: at Pittsburgh
Dec. 3: at Cincinnati
Gut-check time: The three-game stretch between Oct. 8 and Oct. 26, when UConn opens Big East play at West Virginia and closes that span at Pitt, sandwiched by a home game against South Florida. All three teams should be Big East contenders, and though the Huskies finally got past the Mountaineers last season, they have still never won in Morgantown. All three opponents will be hungry for revenge after close losses to Connecticut a season ago.
Trap game: Not much to fear here, unless Buffalo has made major improvement.
Snoozer: Western Michigan. At least Fordham will be interesting as the first game of the Paul Pasqualoni era, and Buffalo is on the road. The game against Western Michigan culminates a mostly yawn-inducing nonconference schedule while everyone is looking forward to conference play.
Good luck with that: Can UConn end its string of three straight devastatingly close losses to Rutgers? The Huskies get the Scarlet Knights at home on Senior Day this year.
Upset watch: Vanderbilt. It's still a road game in SEC country, even if that only qualifies for purely technical reasons. The bigger concern is that the game against the Commodores will be UConn's first test against an FBS opponent under Pasqualoni, and one with a new starting quarterback and tailback on the road. This is no gimme.
Final analysis: Welcome to Storrs, coach Pasqualoni. Here is a gift-wrapped schedule for you. The Huskies don't play a single bowl team from 2010 in the nonconference schedule and get four Big East games at home. They won't leave Connecticut in November. It's a slate that seems almost guaranteed to return the Huskies to the postseason. The key game will likely be the Friday night ESPN contest against Iowa State; the Cyclones did beat Texas and Texas Tech last year and should at least have the talent to win on the road in Big East territory. But I think every other league coach would sign up for this schedule in a heartbeat.