Penn State, Stanford ranked toughest non-conference schedules

Penn State will play the toughest non-conference schedule this upcoming season, according to a college men’s volleyball ranking system.

The Nittany Lions have the hardest schedule in the Off the Block Relative Strength Factor Non-conference Preseason Rankings that were released Wednesday.

The RSF Non-conference Preseason Rankings is a mathematical system created by Off the Block to determine a team’s overall non-conference schedule strength. The formula averages the strength of a team’s entire non-conference season.

Numerous factors were used in the RSF Non-conference Preseason Rankings with the primary emphasis being a team’s non-conference opponents’ 2011 final RSF rankings. Also included in the non-conference rankings is the amount of starters a non-conference opponent has returning for the upcoming season, the location of the non-conference match and projected preseason rankings.


Penn State will play a nation-best 10 non-conference matches against teams that finished last season in the top 15 coaches poll. Seven of those matches — USC, Pepperdine, Ohio State Loyola, Lewis and a two-match series against BYU — will be on the road, while it will also play Stanford and Pacific at a neutral site.

The Nittany Lions last season won their 13th consecutive EIVA championship and lost in the NCAA Tournament semifinals.

Stanford finished second in the RSF Non-conference Preseason Rankings. Stanford’s four-match non-conference schedule is highlighted with a home match against Loyola and traveling to the Midwest for matches against Penn State and Ohio State.

George Mason, BYU and UCLA also were in the top five of the RSF Non-conference Preseason Rankings.

The length of a non-conference season varies for teams depending the amount of conference matches. MIVA teams with a 12 conference-match season play the most non-conference matches, while MPSF teams with a 22 conference-match season play the fewest non-conference matches.

To compensate for this difference in amount of non-conference matches, a team’s RSF Non-conference Preseason Rankings score is the average score and not the overall total score of all its non-conference matches.

Only schools from conferences that have an automatic bid to the 2012 NCAA Tournament were ranked in the Relative Strength Factor Non-conference Preseason rankings.

2012 Relative Strength Factor Non-conference Preseason Rankings
1. Penn State: 2.918
2. Stanford: 2.886
3. George Mason: 2.702
4. BYU: 2.611
5. UCLA: 2.487
6. UC Irvine: 2.429
7. Ohio State: 2.315
8. Lewis: 2.291
9. UC Santa Barbara: 2.241
10. Long Beach State: 2.192
11. Loyola: 2.180
12. St. Francis: 2.169
13. Cal State Northridge: 2.125
14. Pepperdine: 2.122
15. Pacific: 2.113
16. USC: 1.885
17. IPFW: 1.834
18. NJIT: 1.770
19. Harvard: 1.736
20. Hawai’i: 1.701
21. Ball State: 1.678
22. Grand Canyon: 1.557
23. Princeton: 1.497
24. Sacred Heart: 1.338
25. UC San Diego: 1.316
26. Quincy: 0.934
27. Rutgers-Newark: 0.685
*Scores reflect the overall average of a team’s entire non-conference schedule