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Big East picks

I'm going to go ahead and pick all the conferences, even though my main focus is on the SEC and South Carolina. Note: The "three toughest games" section refers to conference tilts.

1. West Virginia (12-0, 7-0)
It's hard to see a loss on the schedule. That's not saying it won't happen -- odds are that it will -- but without being able to point to a game I think they'll lose, I'm not going to give them a loss. (Upshot of this: They will likely lose to Western Michigan in Week 1.) They just have hands-down the best offense in a league that's all about that side of the ball. THREE TOUGHEST GAMES: at South Florida, at Rutgers, Louisville

2. Rutgers (11-1, 6-1)
The one loss is to West Virginia, though they do get the Mountaineers at home and could pull the upset. QB Mike Teel should develop well enough to give the Scarlet Knights a step up on Louisville, where players will have to adjust to a new system. Rutgers also gets the Cardinals on the tail end of a brutal three-game stretch. THREE TOUGHEST GAMES: South Florida, West Virginia, at Louisville

3. Louisville (10-2, 5-2)
But Louisville will still be good. They have a lot of nice pieces, and Brian Brohm should prove his preseason hype justified. But the defense could struggle, and I just think that, overall, Rutgers is better. Also put them on the upset alert at Kentucky. THREE TOUGHEST GAMES: at West Virginia, at South Florida, Rutgers (all, by the way, in a row at the end of the season)

4. South Florida (8-4, 4-3)
They're the darling this year, but they're still trying to catch up with the big guys. They're just a touch behind, but it's enough for them to lose all three game against the conference elite. THREE TOUGHEST GAMES: West Virginia, at Rutgers, Louisville

5. Cincinnati (7-5, 3-4)
They've got enough returning talent to get by Pittsburgh and claim the fifth spot in the conference. They're unlikely, though, to ruin someone's season, as they did against Rutgers. THREE TOUGHEST GAMES: at Rutgers, at South Florida, West Virginia

6. Pittsburgh (6-6, 2-4)
New quarterback and the always legitimate questions about Dave Wannstedt's coaching prowess drop them to the sixth slot in the league. But a cushy schedule all but guarantees bowl eligibility. THREE TOUGHEST GAMES: at Louisville, at Rutgers, at West Virginia

7. Syracuse (3-9, 1-6)
They will fall to Washington. They will lose all but two non-conference games. But, hey, they'll get Connecticut. THREE TOUGHEST GAMES: at Louisville, West Virginia, Rutgers

8. Connecticut (4-8, 0-7)
Yes, they win more games overall. But they lose to Syracuse and go winless in the conference. THREE TOUGHEST GAMES: Louisville, Rutgers, at West Virginia