Penn State, Pitt Favored To Buttress Bowl Candidacies By Winning Saturday

Nittany Lions, Panthers close regular season as favorites over MSU, Miami
kaytron allen
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Penn State and Pitt are both favored to beat teams that need one more win to claim bowl eligibility Saturday, while Temple is once more a big home underdog in finishing its regular season.

If Penn State beats Michigan State and Pitt wins at Miami, as online sportsbooks suggest, the Pennsylvania schools can both improve their status for bowl selection committees. The Nittany Lions, ranked No. 11, retain hopes of playing in a New Year’s Day bowl even if they trail No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Michigan (who play one another Saturday) in the Big Ten.

Temple takes on East Carolina at Lincoln Financial Field, meanwhile, in a game that could restore a measure of respectability to the Owls’ season with an upset.

Below we provide the best odds options relating to the three games that close out the regular season for the state’s major college programs.

Different year, vastly different teams

Penn State and Michigan State met under different circumstances a year ago, with the Spartans closing out their best regular season in years by beating the Nittany Lions 30-27 in East Lansing. That win also gave MSU an 18-17-1 edge in the schools’ all-time series.

Things are different in 2022, with Penn State (9-2, 6-2 Big Ten) demolishing three straight teams and Michigan State (5-6, 3-5) unexpectedly reeling.

Penn State’s 55-10 road win over Rutgers on Saturday meant it has outscored its last three opponents by a combined 130-24. The Spartans, meanwhile, lost on Saturday by a 39-31 score in double overtime to Indiana, a team Penn State beat by 31 points on Nov. 5.

The oddsmakers look at the two schools’ trends — along with the fact that Michigan State has eight players on suspension ever since a post-game scuffle after playing Michigan — and generally make Penn State an 18.5-point favorite for the 4 p.m. contest at Beaver Stadium. A Nittany Lions supporter could do slightly better Wednesday morning, however, by giving just 18 points using either BetMGM or a site with Kambi odds such as Barstool Sportsbook, BetRivers, betPARX, or Unibet.

Penn State bettors obviously have to risk a lot to win a little for this one on the money line, with the best option being BetMGM’s -1000. The over/under was set at 52.5 across the board.

With leading receiver Parker Washington injured for the rest of the season, the Nittany Lions presumably will rely heavily again on the sensational freshman running back duo of Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen, both now over 700 yards on the season.

That emphasis would make all the more sense considering Penn State ran for 237 yards against Rutgers, while the Spartans gave up 257 rushing yards to Indiana in a game they led by 17 as a 12.5-point favorite before faltering late.

Though the point spread is unusually large for a game involving these two programs, Penn State has covered the spread in five straight games, including its loss to Ohio State.

Panthers look to continue streak

Pitt (7-4, 4-3) got its third straight win last week, 28-26 over Duke, to add respectability to its record and resume for bowl committees, and a road win Saturday night would also help considerably.

It faces a Miami team (5-6, 3-4) that has been thrashed in two of its last three games — 40-10 last week by Clemson and 45-3 by Florida State on Nov. 5 — and has been a far bigger disappointment than the Panthers this season. Still, the Hurricanes have beaten Pitt four straight times and in six of the last seven meetings.

The sportsbooks all have agreed early in the week on Pitt as a 6.5-point favorite for the 8 p.m. contest at Hard Rock Stadium. Those who like Pitt but don’t want to give the points would be best using the -250 moneyline offered by BetMGM and Caesars Sportsbook. The over/under is consistently 43.5.

That points total is a modest one by NCAA standards, reflecting how Miami has exceeded 14 points just once in its last four games and Pitt has a notably strong defensive front.

The Panthers’ average of 3.45 sacks per game ranks third in the country, and they could be chasing after freshman quarterback Jacurri Brown, who has made just two starts and completed only six of 13 passes for 53 yards versus Clemson. He has been playing due to an injury to starter Tyler Van Dyke, who was last year’s ACC Rookie of the Year and has a chance of returning to play against Pitt.

One player sure to be in the spotlight is Pitt’s Israel Abanikanda, a candidate for running back awards with his 1,320 rushing yards, 19 overall TDs, and 168.6 all-purpose yards per game.

Owls’ offense hopes to rebound

Temple’s defense competed capably in last week’s 23-3 loss to a tough Cincinnati team, but the offense could manage nothing while committing four turnovers.

Now the Owls (3-8, 1-6) host favored East Carolina (6-5, 3-4) Saturday afternoon. The Pirates came close to upsetting Cincinnati in a 27-25 contest two weeks ago but got blown out 42-3 by Houston last Saturday.

Temple quarterback E.J. Warner will look at how Houston piled up all those points — with 435 passing yards against East Carolina — and try to get the offense to resemble its performance in scoring 54 against South Florida and 36 against Houston in Temple’s two prior games.

East Carolina whipped Temple 45-3 a year ago, and the sportsbooks like the Pirates again, though the point spread has tightened a bit since early in the week. While most of the books have shortened Temple to an 11.5-to-12.5 point underdog, BetMGM sat alone still giving the Owls 13.5 Wednesday morning.

FanDuel offered the best moneyline return on the Owls at +390. The over/under was set at either 50 or 50.5, depending on the book, with DraftKings among those using the lower number as an option for “over” bettors.

Photo: Matthew Oharen/USA TODAY

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