Roc and Pitt are gearing up for a difficult non-conference schedule (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Thanks to Big East Coast Bias for pointing this out to me (side note: These guys are doing a great job so be sure to check out their SB Nation site, which is fairly new), but the Sporting News has apparently tabbed Pitt's non-conference football schedule as the second toughest in the country, behind only LSU.
A look at each school's schedules reveals it's pretty close - too close for me to make a good call on which one is tougher.
LSU's games include a road trip to West Virginia, a neutral site game against Oregon, and games against Western Kentucky and Northwestern State. The latter two aren't very good, but those first two games are pretty strong.
Pitt's schedule, as we know, features home games against Utah, Notre Dame and a road game at Iowa. There are also the games against Buffalo and Maine.
It's a close call to be sure, but if I had to pick one, I might go with Pitt simply for the fact that they have three challenges ahead while LSU has only two. But LSU has the stiffer road test, so it's really looking like a toss-up to me. As an aside, big kudos for LSU scheduling anyone other than scrubs for their non-con games. They're in the toughest conference in the country and to play two teams that have been consistently ranked in the top 25 in their non-con is a huge challenge.
But from Pitt's standpoint, just another example of the Panthers going out of conference for some challenging matchups. I've never been a fan of loading up on a non-conference schedule if you're in a BCS conference, but the games are surely more entertaining than those against I-AA foes. The fact is that I understand the line of thinking behind it, but playing teams like Utah and Notre Dame (while good for the fanbase who wants to see those games) doesn't make much sense when trying to rebuild a program...and make no mistake, that is what Pitt's trying to do. They have a strong history, but are just now getting back on track and 10-win seasons are what Pitt needs right now. That leads to a bigger fanbase, more money, and eventually better talent to be able to compete against the better teams in college football.
Getting beaten by good teams and winning eight games a year is fine for consistency, but I think winning more now against lesser foes would lead to much bigger things down the line.