Penn State fans are hoping the 2017 regular season is a road that leads the Nittany Lions to the College Football Playoff.
That road begins — and stays — in Happy Valley for the first three games of the year, with nonconference home games against Akron, Pitt and Georgia State. According to ESPN, that’s one of the easiest nonconference slates in the nation among Power 5 teams.
ESPN ranked the top 10 easiest nonconference schedules Wednesday, and Penn State’s checked in at No. 9. The full rankings, which list Washington as having the nation’s most cupcake-laden nonconference schedule, can be found here.
Penn State will be favored in all three of those games, with the in-state rivalry game with Pitt obviously the biggest for the Nittany Lions and their fans (especially after the Panthers bested them in 2016).
Pitt is expected to take a step back after an 8-5 campaign, while Akron and Georgia State combined to go 8-16 last season. So that’s how Penn State ended up on ESPN’s list.
The Nittany Lions weren’t the only Big Ten representative, either. Indiana’s schedule of at Virginia, FIU and Georgia Southern was considered the seventh-easiest, while Northwestern’s slate of Nevada, at Duke and Bowling Green was No. 8.