On Wednesday morning, Penn State released its full non-conference schedule for the upcoming 2017-’18 season. With heightened expectations for the team, it should be an important one for the Penn State Nittany Lions.
Here’s a full look at the non-con schedule:
- 11/5 - Bloomsburg (Ex.)
- 11/10 - Campbell
- 11/12 - Fairleigh Dickinson
- 11/15 - Montana
- 11/17 - Columbia
- 11/20 - Oklahoma State/Pittsburgh/Texas A&M (New York City, NY)
- 11/21 - Oklahoma State/Pittsburgh/Texas A&M (New York City, NY)
- 11/24 - Oral Roberts
- 11/29 - at North Carolina State
- 12/9 - George Washington
- 12/17 - at George Mason
- 12/19 - Binghamton
- 12/22 - Rider
- 12/30 - Coppin State
Fans will have to wait at least a few more weeks to get the Big Ten schedule for next season, but this should give them at least some look ahead to next season. Now, let’s dive into some thoughts on the schedule.
Let’s start with the obvious. This schedule isn’t going to get the blood pumping for many Nittany Lions fans. Penn State hasn’t been an elite program in recent years, but this is a slate filled with mediocre and underwhelming opponents. In fact, even the strongest teams don’t project to be all that great.
To put this in perspective, just take a quick glance at how Penn State’s upcoming non-con opponents rated in KenPom last season. Here’s a quick look at where they fit:
Penn State’s Non-Con Opponent KenPom Ratings:
- Rank: 1-50 - Oklahoma State* (22)
- Rank: 51-100 - Texas A&M* (64); Pittsburgh* (79)
- Rank: 101-150 - NC State (109); George Mason (123); George Washington (132)
- Rank: 151-200 - Montana (194)
- Rank: 201-250 - Rider (208); Columbia (235); Oral Roberts (236)
- Rank: 251-300 - Fairleigh Dickinson (267); Campbell (278)
- Rank: 301-351 - Binghamton (314); Coppin State (343)
No matter how you look at those rankings above, it’s pretty easy to see that Penn State’s schedule is primarily filled with underwhelming opponents. Just three teams ranked in the top 100 last season and they all come in the Legends Classic. This is important because it means that Penn State doesn’t even know which of the three it will face. That also doesn’t even mention that teams like Oklahoma State and Pittsburgh project to regress this season after major offseason movement.
On top of lacking marquee opponents, Penn State’s schedule also leans heavily toward the weakest teams. Instead of adding more opponents in that 100 to 200 range, Pat Chambers opted to play seven opponents who ranked outside the top 200 in last year’s KenPom ratings. Simply put, that’s not going to help the team’s RPI.
Given this decision, one has to wonder whether this is a move to artificially inflate a win total. This is an important year for Chambers given his struggles with the Nittany Lions. Maybe he believes an impressive win total can boost his stock with fans.
But, of course, there is some good news. While Penn State doesn’t have any elite opponents on the schedule, it did avoid any guaranteed losses. It has the capability of beating everyone on its non-conference schedule, which isn’t always the case. The Nittany Lions likely won’t win all the games, but putting together an impressive record heading into Big Ten play won’t be impossible this year.
We will have to wait and see how this schedule fits with Penn State’s conference slate this season, but fans have to feel a bit disappointed with the team’s lack of marquee opponents early on. Either way, Chambers still has to make sure his team lives up to the hype this season.