According to CBS Sports' Tom Fornelli, the Nittany Lions have the 12th toughest schedule in the Big Ten.
Fornelli's bases his rankings on who a team plays, where a team plays them, each opponent's recent history, and when the game is being played.
A lackluster non-conference schedule is by far the biggest knock on the Nittany Lions. Opening with an Idaho team that finished 5-7 after dropping down to the FCS level last season does not inspire much confidence. Granted they follow that up with a Buffalo team that won 10 games last season, but that seems more like an anomaly than a norm. Then there's Pitt, who despite finishing the season at 7-7 won the ACC Coastal division. A division champion usually boosts a team's strength of schedule, but this one seemingly has a bit of asterisk next to it.
Fornelli also makes a point that the Nittany Lions avoid most of the Big Ten West's best teams in crossover games. Sure there's the dreaded trip to Kinnick and an improved Purdue at home, but that's about it. Probably the only thing keeping the Nittany Lions out of an even lower slot is the fact that they have to travel to Ohio State and Michigan State, with the latter coming the week after the Michigan Wolverines come to town.
Strength of schedule doesn't really mean much unless you're in the playoff hunt, which the Nittany Lions hope to be once again. If it comes to that and the committee must choose between Penn State and another team, strength of schedule could be the deciding factor that keeps the Nittany Lions out.