NCAAF Odds, Picks for West Virginia vs. Penn State

NCAAF Odds, Picks for West Virginia vs. Penn State article feature image

Scott Taetsch/Getty Images. Pictured: Penn State quarterback Drew Allar.

West Virginia vs. Penn State Odds

September 2
7:30 p.m. ET
West Virginia Odds
-110o / -110u
Penn State Odds
-110o / -110u
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NCAAF odds here.

Beaver Stadium will play host to a what a professional wrestling fanatic would call a "slobber knocker."

State College is the scene for Penn State's journey to a Big Ten and national title effort against a team striving to make the postseason in West Virginia.

The Mountaineers finished with just five wins a season ago, missing a bowl game for just the second time in nine years. Head coach Neal Brown was quick to make changes on the offensive staff after last season, asserting himself as the play-caller in 2023. Brown last called plays at Troy and as a coordinator at Kentucky with great success in his rise to Morgantown.

The Nittany Lions continue to schedule Power 5 opponents out of conference, with recent series against Auburn and Pittsburgh. Now, a two-game set with West Virginia will start at home before concluding in Morgantown next season.

The Rose Bowl champions have high expectations, looking to capitalize this season with Ohio State and Michigan on the schedule. Penn State projects to have the best defense in the nation, but underclassmen at the skill positions will dictate the ceiling for James Franklin in his 10th season as head coach.

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West Virginia Mountaineers

The Mountaineers struck success at the end of 2022 with a new physical ground-and-pound identity with quarterback Garrett Greene. West Virginia upset Oklahoma and Oklahoma State as more than touchdown underdogs thanks to a combined 450 yards on the ground.

Brown ran plenty of inside and outside gap scheme calls from 11 personnel, utilizing the skills of his quarterback and a stable of running backs. Both Jaylen Anderson and CJ Donaldson Jr. return for 2023 after averaging more than four yards after contact a season ago.

Garrett Greene doing what he does best. Plan on seeing this a bunch in 2023!

— EERSNATION (@EERSNATION) August 20, 2023

While the offense terrorizes opponents on the ground, the Mountaineers took high marks in defensive TARP for returning experience. More than 80% of tackles and pass breakups return to a defense that finished 17th in tackle grading, per PFF.

Defensive coordinator Jordan Lesley will be looking for help in the secondary after struggling with quarters coverage and a low blitz rate in 2022. Linebacker Lee Kpogba returns, but he posted better numbers as a run-stopper and pass-rusher.

The highest-graded player from a coverage standpoint returns in free safety Aubrey Burks, but the remainder of the secondary is built with portal names from Minnesota, Kent State and Georgia Southern.

Penn State Nittany Lions

In his Week 1 press conference, Franklin said that every practice play has been recorded and that quarterback Drew Allar "has been very good."

Franklin refused to address starters at any position but noted that Allar's practice numbers were put up against the historical records of Sean Clifford and Trace McSorley. The sophomore was fantastic in limited action last season and didn't post a single interception or turnover-worthy play in 71 dropbacks.

Drew Allar could be in for a big year at Penn State

— Joey Rizzi (@Joeyrizzi7) August 29, 2023

Offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich will move to the booth this season to call plays.

Penn State is loaded in the running back room, as Kaytron Allen and Nicholas Singleton collectively logged over 1,900 yards and 22 touchdowns. Singleton averaged 4.6 yards after contact, the highest number of any returning running back in the Power 5.

The big question marks for Penn State reside in the wide receiver unit and special teams, where many of last year's contributors have moved on.

The defense has the potential to be the best in the nation with coordinator Manny Diaz calling the plays for the most Havoc-minded group of 2022. The Nittany Lions led the nation in pass breakups, as cornerbacks Kalen King and Johnny Dixon ranked third and 45th in the nation, respectively, last season.

Honorable mention all-Big Ten edge rusher Demeioun "Chop" Robinson produced 5.5 sacks and three quarterback hits a season ago, leading the charge for a top-10 pass rush unit.

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West Virginia vs Penn State

Betting Pick & Prediction

Franklin knew the toughest matchup of the game when he stepped to the podium to address reports: the West Virginia run game against PSU's defense.

Franklin noted a number of offensive linemen for the Mountaineers — players that were heavily recruited to suit up in Beaver Stadium. With Greene, Donaldson and Anderson all running behind an experienced offensive line, the question becomes whether or not the Nittany Lions can force long distances on second and third down.

The answer may be a positive for the visiting Mountaineers.

The Penn State defense slid on first downs against the rush a season ago, finishing 42nd in First Down Rush Success Rate, per Sport Source Analytics. That number improved to 19th against the rush on second downs, but teams consistently gained a minimum of three yards on first down against Penn State.

More importantly, expect West Virginia to use four downs to get the needed yards on the ground. The Mountaineers convert a healthy amount of fourth downs yearly, finishing 5th behind the rushing attack last season.

Penn State will have similar success running against a West Virginia defensive front seven that finished 56th in first down rush defense.

The difference in this game is Allar's ability to get downfield in known passing situations.

Allen and Singleton are expected to produce plenty of highlight yards that result in scores, but in the event a fourth down comes in West Virginia territory, the Nittany Lions are expected to go for it. Penn State finished ninth nationally in fourth-down conversions, just shy of the mark left by West Virginia.

One area where West Virginia has an experience advantage is special teams, as the Mountaineers return almost every player from their kicker and punter to their long-snapper. Penn State will field new players at the key special teams positions — something that could make a difference in which team covers the game.

Action Network projected Penn State as just a 14.5-point favorite with a total of 57. These two teams will utilize a heavy ground game with success, complemented by two head coaches who have no fear of rolling the dice on fourth down.

Pick: West Virginia +20.5 or Better · Over 50.5 or Better

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