Northwestern vs. Penn State Odds & Picks: Why to Bet This Big Ten Favorite
Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images. Pictured: Joey Porter Jr. (Penn State)
Northwestern vs. Penn State Odds
Penn State continues to shoot up the rankings as it plays host to Northwestern for both teams' second conference game of the season.
Both the Nittany Lions and Wildcats are a perfect 1-0 in the Big Ten, but the programs couldn't be pointed in more opposites direction after their respective opening wins.
Penn State has reeled off four straight wins to start the season, including an impressive 29-point victory over Auburn on the Plains.
Northwestern, meanwhile, hasn't won since it beat Nebraska in Week 0 in Ireland, including consecutive losses to Southern Illinois and Miami (OH).
With a bye week on deck, followed by three straight matchups against ranked opponents, can the Nittany Lions roll to their third victory of at least 25 points? Or will Pat Fitzgerald's scrappy Wildcats find a way to keep it close?
Just when it looked like Ryan Hilinski had made a surprise turning of the corner with nearly 750 passing yards in the first two weeks, the junior quarterback and Northwestern have come crashing back down to Earth.
The Wildcats have lost three straight games by one score, while the offense has dropped precipitously in each successive week.
Northwestern scored just 14 points last week against Miami (OH).
If Northwestern was going to be successful on offense this year, it was going to be because of the two-headed running back attack of Evan Hull and Cam Porter.
After combining for 213 yards in Week 0, the duo has averaged just 115 yards per game. The offensive line has been a real issue, ranking 106th and 102nd in Run Success and Line Yards, respectively.
Under Fitzgerald, Northwestern has made it a habit of having one of the conference's better defenses. That trend, however, was broken last season and has continued into this one.
Northwestern is allowing 390 yards of offense a game. That number, which is 82nd in the nation, accounts for a Group of Five offense and an FCS team.
After two straight lackluster years in Happy Valley, this has been just the type of rebound season that the doctor ordered for James Franklin's tenure.
Sean Clifford has settled into the offense with his second-year offensive coordinator. The sixth-year senior has thrown eight touchdowns to just one interception, and he's even run for a score in every single game this season.
Despite ranking just 105th in Line Yards, it's been the running game that has seen the most year-over-year improvement for Penn State.
Freshmen Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen have proved every bit worthy of their recruiting hype, as they've each logged at least one 100-yard game and have found the end zone a combined seven times
The defense hasn't skipped a beat under new defensive coordinator Manny Diaz. Penn State ranks second and fifth in Havoc and Pass Blocking on defense and has generated 11 sacks.
The Nittany Lions continue to have one of the best secondaries in the country, led by Joey Porter Jr. No team has more pass breakups than Penn State's 41, which is a whopping 16 more than the next closest team.
Northwestern vs. Penn State Matchup Analysis
Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Northwestern and Penn State match up statistically:
Northwestern Offense vs. Penn State Defense
|** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)|
Penn State Offense vs. Northwestern Defense
|** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)|
Pace of Play / Other
|SP+ Special Teams||123||86|
|Seconds per Play||22.1 (11)||26.3 (62)|
|Rush Rate||45.7% (107)||48.6% (95)|
Data via CollegeFootballData.com (CFBD), FootballOutsiders, SP+, Pro Football Focus and SportSource Analytics.
Northwestern vs. Penn State Betting Pick
There's no question Penn State should win this one, but 25.5 points in a Big Ten game is significant. After all, Penn State is just 1-7 ATS in its last eight Big Ten games as a favorite of 24 or more points.
The margin of victory will likely come down to turnovers. Northwestern is minus-five in turnover margin this year, with nine giveaways over the last three weeks. Meanwhile, Penn State is plus-eight, with just a lone Clifford interception on the season.
The Wildcats are 0-6 against the spread (ATS) in their last six away games, and I don't see things changing in a Beaver Stadium filled with beer-equipped fans for the first time.
Northwestern can't seem to hold onto the ball, and this opportunistic Penn State defense will set up Clifford and the offense with short fields.
There's not a ton of value on the spread or total, but I feel best about Penn State going into a bye week on a high point, a situation in which favorites of 14 or more have covered in 55.2% of games.
Lay the points.