Auburn vs. Penn State Betting Odds, Prediction, Pick for Week 3: Will Nittany Lions Take Down Tigers at Home?
Scott Taetsch/Getty Images. Pictured: Sean Clifford.
Auburn vs. Penn State Odds
-105o / -115u
|Penn State Odds|
-105o / -115u
Considered the best atmosphere in college football, Penn State will have a “White Out” game when Auburn travels north on Saturday.
The results of a yearly event like this have paid dividends in the win column; only Ohio State has won in Beaver Stadium during a “White Out” since the 2016 season.
The stakes could not be higher for Penn State on a national level after the Buckeyes took a loss to Oregon.
Auburn travels to University Park after hammering the box scores against Akron and Alabama State. The Tigers have prepared all summer for the opportunity to win on the road for the SEC against a premier program in the Big Ten.
As for the home team, James Franklin and USC have mutual interest in the wake of the Clay Helton firing.
The Trojans’ open head coach job may not have an affect on this game, but the play of quarterbacks Bo Nix and Sean Clifford are the biggest handicap of the event.
The Tigers have kicked off the 2021 season against inferior competition with a combined score of 122-10. Stomping out inferior competition is a characteristic of offensive coordinator Mike Bobo but has also shown what concepts are being run with a new coaching regime in place.
Over 57% of snaps have come from 11 formations with a 55% rate of pass, while a two-tight end set is run on 37% of plays with a heavy tilt toward the rush.
Nix has had just four pressured dropbacks through two games.
The defense is led by coordinator Derek Mason, former head coach of Vanderbilt. The scheme has been multiple, rotating from a 2-4-5 to a 4-2-5.
No matter the scheme, Mason has kept blitzes off film with just a 16% rate thus far. That is a big drop from the Vanderbilt defenses of years past under Mason, which blitzed on 33% of defensive snaps last season.
The Tigers have put up video game-like numbers through their two cupcake scrimmages to start the season.
Nix has five touchdowns and no interceptions, fielding the highest adjusted completion percentage of all Power Five quarterbacks.
The Alabama State box score did show a couple of items to monitor for Penn State, as Nix posted two turnover-worthy plays. There were also four drops by four different receiving targets.
Shedrick Jackson leads the team with 10 targets on the season after taking 31 snaps at wideout and just two in the slot.
The added dimension of Tank Bigsby will be a key factor in the game. Auburn runs the ball at a 60% rate and averages the highest yards per carry in the country after facing a MAC and SWAC team.
As Bryan Harsin elects to go heavy run in the 12 formations, tight ends Luke Deal and John Samuel Shenker play a key role against the Penn State linebackers.
The goal of the Tigers defense is to shut down wide receiver Jahan Dotson, who has 18 targets on the season, six of them coming on third-down attempts.
Mason has coached against tempo offenses that run RPO in space since his days as Stanford’s defensive coordinator.
The multiple front look has been installed for Auburn, with eight different schemes run in the first two games. Attacking Penn State is not simply a blitz in the pocket but stopping Clifford from running the RPO in space.
— Auburn Football (@AuburnFootball) September 11, 2021
The numbers have been outstanding even with the pretense of the competition.
Mason has the No. 1 defense against the big play and top-10 ranks in Rushing Success, Havoc and coverage. With a top-25 tackling grade, the handicap on this side of the ball is limiting yards after contact against the Mike Yurcich run-pass option with tempo.
An elite defensive showing against Wisconsin in scoring situations led to a victory and a fan base wanting more than just a conference crown.
Penn State has won and covered against the Badgers and Ball State to begin the season, thanks in part to improved offensive efficiency and red-zone play from the defense. Clifford’s decision-making has improved with new offensive coordinator Yurcich in place.
The defense lost its bite during the pandemic season of streaks for the Nittany Lions. While the overall Havoc numbers are not desirable for coordinator Brent Pry, there has been a tougher level of complexity to the schedule than that of a team like Auburn.
The ability to limit the explosive play has been a key factor in the early success of Penn State.
Nittany Lions Offense
Like Nix, there was plenty for Clifford to address in terms of improving efficiency at the quarterback position. The early returns are positive, as Clifford has four big-time throws and no turnover-worthy plays.
There has been a small uptick in average depth of target, but more importantly, there have not been mistakes in 25 dropbacks against opposing blitz.
Sean Clifford delivers a SEED 🚀🚀
— 247Sports (@247Sports) September 4, 2021
Attacking the Auburn defense will require the same recipe used against Wisconsin and Ball State. Yurcich has called 39 play-action or screen attempts through two games. Clifford has an 87% adjusted completion percentage in those play calls, generating an NFL rating over 117.
All signs are pointing to improvement in Clifford’s game, as the ability to handle pressure and multiple fronts is imperative against a Mason-coached defense.
Nittany Lions Defense
Pry will look to shut down Bigsby at the line of scrimmage — no easy task against a running back that averages over five yards after contact for his career.
The Nittany Lions have generated just 12 tackles for loss and a single forced fumble on the season. The best group on the defense has been the back seven, grading out as the third-best coverage unit, per PFF.
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) September 4, 2021
The Nittany Lions rank 30th in Defensive Finishing Drives, assisted by numerous red-zone attempts with no points by Wisconsin.
The defense has one of the best marks in limiting the explosive play, allowing no passes over 30 yards and zero rushing gains over 20 yards.
Auburn will be able to move the ball in standard downs with advantages in Line Yards on the offensive line and Bigsby dragging defenders for first downs. Penn State will need another Herculean effort when Auburn moves into scoring opportunities.
Auburn vs. Penn State Matchup Analysis
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Auburn Offense vs. Penn State Defense
Penn State Offense vs. Auburn Defense
Pace of Play / Other
Auburn vs. Penn State Betting Pick
Both Auburn and Penn State have been under new management on the offensive side of the ball. Both coordinators have earned their money, as Nix and Clifford continue to post quality box scores.
The difference between the two competitors is the strength of competition. The Wisconsin defense was the best in the nation in limiting the explosive play in 2020, but Clifford got behind the secondary on multiple attempts. The Yurcich game plan is well known: create RPO opportunities in tempo and look downfield.
Clifford has more pass attempts of 20-plus yards than attempts from the medium range of 10-to-19 yards. The Auburn secondary will see plenty of play-action passing, RPOs in space and shots downfield.
Nix must overcome previous performances on the road. The issue thus far against Akron and Alabama State has been the drops, as all five have been between the line of scrimmage or 19 yards down the field.
Nix can expect pressure, as Pry has blitzed on 45% of defensive downs, a large jump from 32% in 2020. Standard downs will consist of stopping Bigsby, while passing downs will be about pressuring Nix.
The Action Network power ratings rewarded Penn State through the first two games more than Auburn because of box score and strength of schedule. This is a number projected at Penn State -9, giving the Nittany Lions plenty of edge.
There are shops that have lowered this number as far as Penn State -4, signifying that this game would be closer to a pick at a neutral site.
Teams traveling on the road for the first time have not been winners at the window after a COVID-19 season that saw minimal home-crowd influence.
This has been deemed Penn State’s biggest home game of the season, as a battle-tested defense will continue to excel in Finishing Drives and coverage.