The media has spoken, and Louisville is the heavy favorite to win the Big East. The Cardinals got 24 of 28 first-place votes, making them the team to beat in 2012.
A season ago, Charlie Strong's team struggled out of conference, winning just twice in five games. The Cardinals again have a challenging nonconference schedule, but their main objective will be to run through the Big East (mostly) unscathed.
Must-see matchup: at Rutgers, Nov. 29
In 2006, then-head coach Bobby Petrino had his Cardinals flying high entering a Thursday night game in Piscataway, N.J. They were unbeaten and looking for a ticket to the BCS title game. This year sets up somewhat similarly, though the Cards and Scarlet Knights will meet in the final game of the season, perhaps to decide the Big East champion. If that isn't enough, QB Teddy Bridgewater and the Louisville offense will get a crack at what many consider to be one of the best defenses in the country.
The Cards get a break late in the season leading up to that date with Rutgers. They draw the conference's bottom three right in a row, with a bye week sandwiched in between. They should be plenty ready once they roll into their finale with the Scarlet Knights, though they will be coming off a short week, having played Connecticut the Saturday before.
The good news for the Cardinals: They get two of these games at home. The bad news, of course, is that they come right in a row. Luckily, again, the brutal stretch immediately precedes an easier portion of their schedule, so if they can survive the gauntlet in October, the championship will be theirs to lose.
Sept. 2: Kentucky
Sept. 8: Missouri State
Sept. 15: North Carolina
Sept. 22: at Florida International
Sept. 29: at Southern Miss
Oct. 13: at Pittsburgh
Oct. 20: South Florida
Oct. 26: Cincinnati
Nov. 3: Temple
Nov. 10: at Syracuse
Nov. 24: Connecticut
Nov. 29: at Rutgers
For more-up-to-the-minute news and analysis on the Big East, follow bloggers Evan Hilbert and Matt Rybaltowski @CBSBigEast