I continue my team-by-team look at each schedule in the Big East.
Up today: USF.
Nonconference schedule: The Bulls have one of the more challenging nonconference schedules in the Big East, with games against Florida State, then at Miami and Nevada. Playing two in-state rivals, programs you are judged against, are emotional affairs. Having to face them both in the same year is a daunting challenge, even if Miami is expected to be down. Nevada is no slouch, and having to travel out West for its first true road test is going to be quite a task. Not only do the Bulls have to deal with the road and the time change, they have to prepare for a Pistol offense they never see.
Conference schedule: USF opens conference play in September for the first time since 2007. Perhaps that gives the Bulls a sense of urgency in conference play, something that has been lacking since ... forever. The possibility exists for this game to be moved to a Thursday night, depending on what time the Nevada game kicks off the previous week. USF is on the road to play Louisville this year, and closes with a tough contests at Cincinnati and home to Pitt. All memories of what Ray Graham did last season to the Bulls must be banished.
Good news: USF does get Rutgers at home, though the Scarlet Knights have been a tricky team for the Bulls to beat. They are 2-5 all-time against them, and collapsed in a loss last season. Florida State also is at home, sandwiched between Ball State and Temple, so the game placement is good from a focus standpoint. And the tougher Big East games are evenly spread out, with Rutgers in September, Louisville in October, Cincinnati in November and Pitt in December.
Bad news: Coach Skip Holtz would not have agreed to play at Nevada had he known he would be opening up conference play the following week against Rutgers -- with the possibility of preparing on a short week, no less. Plus the placement is odd, because it is the only conference game among its first five contests. USF also plays three nonconference games on the road, including two against non-AQ teams. It is one thing to play at Notre Dame, and quite another to play at Ball State.
Best case: USF is able to beat Miami, Florida State and Nevada for another incredible nonconference performance, and maintains its momentum to go 10-2.
Worst case: The Bulls drop both to their in-state rivals and the Nevada game, and continue their mediocre play in the Big East to go 6-6.