When USF joined the Big East in 2005, the popular thinking was that playing the Bulls would give the rest of the conference an inroad into the state of Florida's fertile recruiting grounds. But as USF prepares for its fourth season in the league, the opposite appears to be true. The number of Floridians on opposing Big East rosters is down to 91 this season. It was 107 last season and 108 in 2006. Last year, we tabulated the number of Floridians on each roster and half-jokingly awarded a "Sunshine Cup" to the program with the most — West Virginia and Louisville tied with 22 followed by Pittsburgh (21) and Rutgers (19). This year, the Mountaineers are runaway champs with 24 players from Florida on their roster, eight more than the closest challengers. The totals using each school's media guide with the 2007 and 2006 numbers to show which schools are moving in and which are moving out:
Team 2008 2007 2006
West Virginia 24 22 18
Louisville 16 22 25
Rutgers 16 19 24
Pittsburgh 14 21 21
Connecticut 9 14 14
Cincinnati 6 4 4
Syracuse 6 5 2
Schedules: Softest to toughest
8. Rutgers: None of its opponents had a Sagarin rating higher than 60th last season. North Carolina should be tougher, but beating Army and Navy won't impress many people.
7. Louisville: Four tame home games, the toughest of which might be Kansas State. Kentucky should provide confidence. The lineup is good for wins, not respect. First things first.
6. Connecticut: Three games against BCS conference opponents is strong, but Baylor should barely count. Wins against North Carolina and Virginia would help in the "Big East-ACC" argument.
5. Pittsburgh: The first three games are no challenge, though a win at Notre Dame in November would mean something. Win three league games and Dave Wannstedt likely can enjoy a bowl.
4. Cincinnati: The Oklahoma game is the single-toughest on a Big East schedule. The rest? Ick, with sub-.500 non-BCS games against Miami (Ohio) and at Akron and Marshall.
3. Syracuse: As resume lines go, Penn State and Notre Dame look strong. But if the Orange can't beat Northwestern or Akron, Greg Robinson might be 1-5 — or unemployed — when Syracuse comes to Tampa.
2. USF: Only three Big East nonconference opponents won 10 games last season, and Kansas and Central Florida are two. The Bulls have a span of nine weeks with only two road games, and those are in a span of six days. The Florida International game isn't a cakewalk because it opens the Panthers' new stadium. And the N.C. State trip, five days before the Big East opener, reeks of a trap game.
1. West Virginia: The Auburn game will impact the league's national perception as will a September trip to Colorado. If you're worried about the East Carolina game, remember that West Virginia won last year 48-7. It likely won't be close.
Greg Auman, Times staff writer