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ESPN ranks Pitt's 2017 non-conference schedule as toughest in college football

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Last year's non-conference schedule for Pitt football was challenging with games against Penn State and Oklahoma State. And after those teams vaulted up the rankings, by the end of the year, it was even more evident how difficult the Panthers' out of conference games were.

Pitt faces both teams again in 2017 but this time, those programs are expected to do well. Not just well, but ESPN ranks both in the top ten in their early preseason rankings. For that reason, they tabbed Pitt's non-conference schedule as the most difficult in the nation.

Sure, Rice (who was 3-9 last year) and FCS foe Youngstown State aren't expected to defeat the Panthers. But those first two teams are plenty challenging enough and is more than most schools would dare to take on.

No complaints from my end. For the record, I've always been one that has said Pitt needs to worry about winning games first before scheduling harder. But you also need to play Penn State whenever you absolutely can and while it might be nice to have a lesser foe in there in place of Oklahoma State, it's not the end of the world. Plus, the Panthers played them well on the road last year so they get this one at home.

Looking at the non-conference schedule, it's pretty clear what Pitt needs here. 3-1 has to be the goal here. 4-0, of course is better, but perhaps unrealistic. 2-2 is nothing special at all and 1-3 means we've got a disaster on our hands.

How do you think the Panthers will fare in their non-conference schedule? Vote in the poll below.

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