Penn State's "Traditionally" Weak Schedule

BSD - Bumped from the fanposts. swiggy04 defends Penn State against those who say we "traditionally" schedule weak teams.

Recently, we have heard more and more about Penn State and their absurd non-conference schedule this off-season. In fact, the criticism has been thrown around ad nauseum on other college football blogs, ESPN and even our own conference network’s website . Most Penn State fans will painfully admit that this season’s non-con schedule is weak and some, including myself, are borderline embarrassed. We have our explanations (not excuses) that we scheduled Syracuse well before they became awful, Alabama backed out, we tried to get a good team at the last minute, etc. However the fact remains the schedule is weak, and we admit and accept it for this season...

THIS season..

More and more, arguments are being made that Penn State has played a traditionally weak non-conference schedule. Mostly, the accusations are thrown in the comments section of various blogs around college football and ESPN. Pitt fans are happy to throw that statement out whenever Penn State’s potential in 2009 is brought up. But is it accurate?

Since 1993, when Penn State joined the Big Ten (and by definition began a non-conference schedule), they have played 16 different schools in BCS conferences. (Note: Teams listed below were members of a BCS conference at the time Penn State played them. I.E., I did not list Louisville (‘96 & ‘97) when they were in Conference USA, nor Temple in their post Big East capacity). Below is a list of how Penn State has fared against these teams, along with each team’s final record in parenthesis:

1993 (3-0) - USC (8-5) W, Rutgers (4-7) W, @Maryland (2-9) W

1994 (3-0) - #14 USC (8-3-1) W, Rutgers (5-5-1) W, @Temple (2-9) W

1995 (3-0) - Texas Tech (9-3) W, @Rutgers (4-7) W, Temple (1-10) W

1996 (2-0) - #7 USC (6-6) W, Temple (1-10) W

1997 (2-0) - Pittsburgh (6-6) W, Temple (3-8) W

1998 (1-0) - @Pittsburgh (2-9) W

1999 (3-0) - #4 Arizona (6-6) W, Pittsburgh (5-6) W, @#8 Miami (9-4) W

2000 (0-2) - #15 USC (5-7) L, @Pittsburgh (7-5) L

2001 (0-2) - #2 Miami (12-0) L, @Virginia (5-7) L

2002 (2-0) - #7 Nebraska (7-7) W, Virginia (9-5) W

2003 (1-2) - Boston College (8-5) L, @#18 Nebraska (10-3) L, Temple (1-11) W

2004 (0-1) - @Boston College (9-3) L

2005 (2-0) - South Florida (6-6) W, Cincinnati (4-7) W

2006 (0-1) - @#4 Notre Dame (10-3) L

2007 (1-0) - Notre Dame (3-9) W

2008 (2-0) - @Syracuse (3-9) W, Oregon State (9-4) W

Totals: Overall 25-8, Home 19-3, Road 6-5


5 Games: Temple (5-0)

4 Games: USC (3-1), Pitt (3-1)

3 Games: Rutgers (3-0)

2 Games: Miami(FL) (1-1), Virginia (1-1), Nebraska (1-1), Boston College (0-2), Notre Dame (1-1)

1 Game: Maryland (1-0), Texas Tech (1-0), Arizona (1-0), South Florida (1-0), Cincinnati (1-0), Syracuse (1-0), Oregon State (1-0).

Totals: Big East (15-4), Pac-10 (5-1). ACC (2-1), Big 12 (2-1), Independent (1-1)

There are the facts. 33 games against BCS opponents in 16 years, or an average of barely over 2 per year. More than half were against bowl eligible (6 win) teams. No one would argue they play the #1 toughest OOC schedule year in and year out (mainly due to many games against doormat teams in BCS conferences (see: Temple, Rutgers)) but there were more than a few "historical powerhouses" as well in USC, Nebraska, Notre Dame, and Miami (the 2001 team went on to win a national championship), and a few teams that, while not traditional powers, are not cellar-dwellers either in Boston College, Virginia, Pitt and South Florida. It could also be noted that, though not in a BCS conference, Penn State also scheduled Southern Miss in 1998 when they were a top 25 team.

By comparison, in that same span, reigning national champion Florida has played the following BCS, non conference teams: Florida State (7-7-1), and Miami(FL) (0-2). That’s it. For the sake of not being too cruel, they also scheduled Southern Miss three times (3-0). So, in their non conference schedule, they are 7-9-1 and have played a grand total of 2 teams out of conference (famously, none outside the state of Florida).

For fun (and since they appear to be the biggest supporter of the "PSU’s traditionally weak schedule" argument), I looked at Pitt’s OOC schedule, and they have scheduled a total of 11 teams in that same span: Notre Dame (3-7), Penn State (1-3), Ohio State (0-4), Texas (0-2), Washington State (1-0), North Carolina (0-2), Texas A&M (1-1), Nebraska (0-2), Virginia (1-1), Michigan State (0-2), and Iowa (1-0). That equals a total of 8-24 in OOC games, Big Ten (2-9), Independent (3-7), Big 12 (1-5), ACC (1-3) and Pac-10 (1-0). It’s a weak record, but to be fair they have played a few traditional powerhouses themselves in Texas, Ohio State, Notre Dame and Nebraska (and Penn State). They did manage to steer clear of Rutgers and Temple in OOC scheduling, which would be admirable, only those two were already on Pitt’s schedule as members of the Big East. Pitt was also 2-9 against the Big Ten, while Penn State sported a 7-4 record against the Big East (I removed Temple and Rutgers from the conversation for obvious reasons).

Further, looking at non BCS games, Penn State (13 non BCS schools) has played eight MAC schools (Akron, Bowling Green, Buffalo, Central Michigan, Kent State, Northern Illinois, Temple and Toledo), three C-USA schools (Central Florida, Louisville and Southern Miss), a Sun Belt team ( Florida International) and one school from the WAC (LA Tech).  (Note: Pitt's non BCS schedule include seven MAC schools, five C-USA schools, a Sun Belt, Navy and pre Big East South Florida).

Finally, Penn State also gets its fair share of ribbing for scheduling FCS schools. A closer look reveals Penn State has played two FCS games since 1993 (‘08 Coastal Carolina, ‘06 Youngstown State). For comparison purposes, Ohio State has also played two (Youngstown State in ‘06 and ‘07), Alabama has played three (Western Carolina in ‘04 and ‘07, UT-Chattanooga in ‘94), and Florida has played four (The Citadel in ‘98 and ‘08, Florida A&M in ‘03, and ‘96 Georgia Southern).

Oh, and the Pitt Panthers? You know, the team who’s fans say they are sick of watching Penn State play high schools and women’s colleges? They’ve played FIVE FCS games (‘98 Villanova, ‘04 Furman, ‘05 Youngstown State, ‘06 Citadel and ‘07 Grambling State).

So what do you think?  Is our non conference traditionally weak?  I think, with evidence above, it may  not be the toughest every year, I would certainly put those numbers up against at least 90% of other BCS schools. 


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