It’s a little muddy knowing just how good (or not) Penn State is at 3-1, because of how bad their schedule has been. As others have noted, the Nittany Lions are the only Big Ten team whose non-conference schedule does not include a Power 5 opponent.
The cupcake diet this week features Army (or Army West Point, as the new branding goes) visiting Beaver Stadium Saturday, fresh off its first win of the season, 58-36 win over Eastern Michigan.
The Black Knights, (at least that stayed the same), who lost 21 straight road games prior to that, dropped their opener to FCS-member Fordham, and followed that with losses to Connecticut and Wake Forest.
Penn State last week beat San Diego State, although the Aztecs, probably hung in longer than they should have. Two weeks ago, Penn State caught a break when a decimated Rutgers team came in besieged by dismissals and suspensions that included the head coach. And prior to that it was Buffalo.
Those were the three wins. The loss, of course, came in the opener to Temple, which is 3-0 and leading the American Athletic Conference. What everybody remembers, though, are the 10 sacks the Owls laid on the Lions in a 27-10 loss so ugly that Penn State coach James Franklin shook up not just his offensive line but elements of the entire offense so quarterback Christian Hackenberg would have more time to throw.
Temple is pretty good, but it is interesting to note the Owls recorded just two sacks and yielded 49 points in subsequent wins over Cincinnati and UMass.
Buffalo, Rutgers, San Diego State and Army are not as good. These Penn State opponents are respectively ranked, 99th, 97th, 83rd and 115th among the 128 Division I programs, according to the ESPN Power Index. Penn State, by the way, is No. 44, but six 2-2 teams and three 1-3 teams are ranked higher.
Obviously such rankings are not the final word, but they do provide a reasonably accurate assessment of Penn State’s schedule, beyond what the eye can see. Which isn’t much.