Pennsylvania’s Division 1 college football teams not only all won as favorites last week — a rare occurrence in itself — but also covered their respective spreads.
Don’t expect to see that same scenario play out again for a while, with Temple returning to its customary underdog status this week and Pitt expected to face many challenges when navigating its ACC schedule. But Penn State? That’s a program that can be expected to be favored most weeks, has already nicely rewarded sports bettors who backed them the first two games, and will have the eyes of America upon it on ABC Saturday night when it hosts Auburn in a major cross-sectional matchup.
And so the Nittany Lions, naturally, are where we must begin this week’s dissection of the odds and options listed by the many Pennsylvania online sportsbooks.
PSU seeking 18th straight non-conference win
There was no sign of a letdown in State College last week after the Lions’ upset of Wisconsin in their opener. They also put aside any worries of a trap game falling between the high-profile contests with the Badgers and Auburn, as Penn State easily dispatched Ball State, 44-13.
Because there must always be something to worry about — even with 107,000 fans planned for another Beaver Stadium “Whiteout” — coach James Franklin’s name arose this week in talk of future candidates for the position at USC, which fired its coach Monday. The Lions’ coach since 2014 dismissed it as any distraction to his team’s preparation for the Tigers.
— Dan Patrick Show (@dpshow) September 15, 2021
The sportsbooks had 10th-ranked Penn State listed as just a 4- to 5-point favorite Thursday, however, after the spread was as high as 6.5 early in the week from FanDuel and from Kambi-supplied sites like BetRivers and Unibet.
The shift in odds toward a closer game benefits Penn State backers, who could bet the Nittany Lions -4 at FOX Bet as their best option. Most sites were offering 5 points to Auburn bettors. With a moneyline of -185, Caesars stood as the best place to bet on Penn State to win straight up.
Most sites listed a points total over/under of 53, but FanDuel went up to 53.5 and FOX Bet dipped to 52.5.
If not much has gone wrong for Penn State thus far this season, that’s even more the case for No. 22 Auburn, which has by a combined score of 122-10 over Alabama State and Akron. Those squads hardly represent Big Ten-caliber competition, of course, but the Tigers’ offense has been operating on high octane, with running backs Tank Bigsby and Jarquez Hunter each producing more than 240 yards plus two TDs thus far.
Penn State’s defense has been similarly stellar against better opponents, and the offense, led by QB Sean Clifford, has been highly efficient ever since its anemic first half vs. Wisconsin. It all creates an interesting and rare matchup, considering Auburn hasn’t played a Big Ten opponent since 1931. Penn State, meanwhile, has 17 consecutive non-conference wins.
Pitt looks to continue building momentum
When it comes to SEC programs, Tennessee’s hasn’t been as good as Auburn’s in most recent years, but Pitt nonetheless gained considerable satisfaction in emerging as a 41-37 victor in Knoxville last week as a small favorite.
Now the Panthers get a potential breather by hosting Western Michigan at noon Saturday, with Pitt a better than two-touchdown favorite — though Pitt fans can recall a lot of similar such instances in which their team fell flat. Another win, followed by an easy game the next week against New Hampshire, could propel coach Pat Narduzzi’s team into its conference schedule at 4-0 with high hopes.
Pitt is favored Saturday by as many as 15.5 points (Caesars), but most sites have 15, and a Pitt backer is served even better giving 14.5 at either FanDuel or one of the Kambi sites. FOX Bet has the best moneyline for a Pitt wager at -650.
The over/under is either 58.5 or 59 at the various sites.
Pitt’s offense has been clicking behind veteran starter Kenny Pickett, who completed 24 of 36 passes for 285 yards and two TDs vs. Tennessee. The running game is a question mark, but the defense has lived up to its recent years of aggressive and opportunistic play, including five sacks on Saturday.
The visiting Broncos have never played Pitt and last beat a Power Five opponent in 2016. They opened the season losing 47-14 to Michigan and rebounded to beat Illinois State 28-0 on Saturday. The Broncos’ defense starred in the victory, limiting Illinois State to 57 total yards. That came after allowing three TDs of 60 yards or more by Michigan, raising the question of which Western Michigan defense will show up at Heinz Field.
Lots of QB questions for Temple, BC
Temple shook off a season-opening disaster vs. Rutgers to beat hapless Akron 45-24 Saturday in the first start at quarterback by freshman Justin Lynch. He was replacing D’Wan Mathis, who injured his ankle against Rutgers, and it is unclear who will be the Owls’ signal-caller Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field vs. Boston College.
The Eagles have their own quarterback issues, as veteran starter Phil Jurkovec is apparently out for the season, replaced by Dennis Grosel, who was a starter as a sophomore before Jurkovec supplanted him. After throwing all of the quarterback questions and other factors into the mix, oddsmakers have come up with Temple as a bit more than two-TD underdog, though that spread has tightened by a point or two during the week.
Most of the sportsbooks make Boston College, which is 2-0 after easy wins over Colgate and the University of Massachusetts, a 14.5-point favorite. An Owls bettor could get 15.5 Thursday, however, from Caesars and the Kambi sites. Caesars is also offering the best moneyline odds for a Temple upset at +525.
Photo: Jeff Hanisch/USA Today