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College Football Odds, Pick for Ball State vs. Penn State: Time to Fade the Nittany Lions? (September 11)

College Football Odds, Pick for Ball State vs. Penn State: Time to Fade the Nittany Lions? (September 11) article feature image

Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Sean Clifford

Ball State vs. Penn State Odds

Saturday, Sept. 11
3:30 p.m. ET
Ball State Odds
-110o / -110u
Penn State Odds
-110o / -110u
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.

We have ourselves an intriguing matchup in Happy Valley as the Ball State Cardinals visit the Penn State Nittany Lions.

Both teams are carrying momentum coming off season-opening victories,  but each team also carries a different mentality into this one. That may make the difference in the game.

Ball State Cardinals

The defending MAC champions opened their season by defeating Western Illinois.

It was more of a challenge than many might have expected given the Cardinals were such heavy favorites. Though they persevered and are heading into Beaver Stadium with an upset on their minds.

Cardinals Offense

Last season, the Cardinals maintained a balanced attack on offense that put up over 34 points per game. With 10 starters returning, we saw much of the same in Week 1.

The Cardinals had great success both in the air and on the ground. The connection between quarterback Drew Plitt and receiver Justin Hall could not be stopped. The pair connected eight times for 137 yards and two scores.

Another angle from the Ball State TD.

Drew Plitt with a beautiful throw.

— Pro Football Network (@PFN365) September 2, 2021

Without starting running back Tye Evans,  head coach Mike Neu deployed a running back by committee approach and enjoyed great success. The Cardinals used five different ball carriers, but the touches were led by Will Jones.

Jones rushed for 93 yards and reached the end zone once. The committee approach gave the Cardinals versatility as they also had multiple rushing attempts from their quarterback and wide receivers.

Cardinals Defense

We got a glimpse at the strengths and the weaknesses of this Ball State defense in Week 1.

The Cardinals shut down the rushing attack of the Leathernecks, holding them to a dismal 2.9 yards per carry. However, Western Illinois quickly reverted to the air, and the Cardinals had very few answers.

Leathernecks quarterback Connor Sampson threw for 367 yards. What may be even more glaring is that 237 of them were to wide receiver Dennis Houston, who terrorized the Ball secondary. Houston finished with 12 receptions and scored twice.

This performance is troubling for defensive coordinator Tyler Stockton, a Broyles Award nominee. The Cardinals, who return ten starters, will need to refocus, or they could be in for a long day a Beaver Stadium.

Penn State Nittany Lions

The Nittany Lions are riding high off of their upset win over Wisconsin in the season opener.  Though they were victorious, James Franklin and his squad will need to get right as they have a date with Auburn on deck.

Nittany Lions Offense

There were a multitude of offensive issues from both teams in the matchup against Wisconsin. What was most notable was the struggle that the Nittany Lions had with their ground game. They averaged only 2.8 yards per carry.

The inability to establish the run game led to an overall inefficient performance by the offense. The Nittany Lions went three of 13 on third down and only managed to move the chains 12 times throughout the game.

After being shut out in the first half, the Penn State passing attack came to life. Sean Clifford connected with Jahan Dotson for a 49-yard touchdown pass to open the third quarter.

Clifford also completed a number of clutch passes as he led the Nittany Lions down the field for what was the eventual game-winning score.

The explosiveness shown in the passing game is a bright spot for the offense to build off of, but they will have to establish a more balanced attack, and Ball St. may make getting on track more of a challenge than the Nittany Lions may need.

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Nittany Lions Defense

The Penn State defense delivered a gutsy effort in Week 1.

This defensive unit stepped up in a big way as the Nittany Lions’ offense put them in a difficult position.  They were on the field for over 42 minutes and played 95 snaps but held the Wisconsin offense to 3.8 yards per play.

They also gave their offense every opportunity to produce as they forced three turnovers.  The last of which came with the game on the line in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter.



— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) September 4, 2021

Ball State vs. Penn State Matchup Analysis

Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Ball State and Penn State match up statistically:

Ball State Offense vs. Penn State Defense




Rushing Success
Passing Success
Line Yards
Sack Rate
Finishing Drives

Penn State Offense vs. Ball State Defense




Rushing Success
Passing Success
Line Yards
Sack Rate
Finishing Drives

Pace of Play / Other
PFF Tackling
Rush Rate
59.3% (31)
56.7% (54)
Seconds per Play
Special Teams SP+

Data via College Football Data (CFBD) and FootballOutsiders; SP+ projection per ESPN.

Ball State vs. Penn State Betting Pick

This matchup could go many different ways depending on the types of adjustments we see from both sides. Though what we likely see is positive regression from the units that lacked in the last week’s games.

Expect Penn St. to run the ball more effectively, but also expect Ball State to give a far better effort in defending the attempts of Clifford.

The line for this game opened at 20.5 but it has now swelled past a key number and sits at 23. That is too many points to give the defending MAC champs. They have the talent on both sides of the ball to give the Nittany Lions plenty of problems. Penn St. may also get caught looking ahead to their date with Auburn.

The Cardinals have recent history on their side as they are 7-1 against the spread when facing Big Ten opponents and 6-1 against the spread against Power Five programs. Ball State will play up to the Nittany Lions.

Pick: Ball St. +23 (Play to 21)

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