The second week of the NFL season is upon us, but in Pennsylvania, the “main event” of the sports betting weekend doesn’t involve the Eagles or the Steelers.
That’s because the Keystone State’s two marquee college football teams, Penn State and Pitt, meet at Beaver Stadium at noon on Saturday for the 100th time in their storied rivalry.
The Nittany Lions lead the overall series 52-43-4 and have won the last two clashes, and as the 13th-ranked team in the nation according to the AP poll, they’re heavily favored to make it three in a row.
Penn State vs. Pitt odds breakdown
Even if one team is a prohibitive favorite, as is the case here, the point spread acts as the great sports betting equalizer.
With five online sportsbooks active in the state, there’s an opportunity to shop around for the best odds — although in this case, the variation is minimal. Because Play SugarHouse, BetRivers, and Parx all use Kambi to provide their opening lines, for bettors, it’s more like having three options to choose among.
Here’s how each sportsbook’s lines looked as of 10 a.m. Friday:
|Spread||PSU moneyline||Pitt moneyline||Total|
|Kambi sites||PSU -17.5||-910||+650||53|
|FOX Bet||PSU -17||-800||+600||53|
A half-point isn’t always a difference maker, but if you like Penn State to cover, you may as well give yourself that extra little bit of cushion at FOX Bet, and if you find yourself leaning toward the Panthers, you’ll get slightly more wiggle room at FanDuel or the Kambi sites.
FanDuel is the one that’s off by a half-point on the total. If it lands on exactly 53, you’ll be kicking yourself if you bet it at the wrong book.
As for the moneyline, FOX Bet (which can now be found on the Web in PA at mtairycasino.foxbet.com) is clearly the best site for backing Penn State, and the Kambi sites are best for taking a shot on a Pitt upset victory.
After losing their opener to Virginia, Pitt bounced back last week against Ohio, whereas the Nittany Lions have cruised to wins over outclassed Buffalo and Idaho by a combined score of 124-20. The QB matchup is intriguing with PSU’s sophomore starter Sean Clifford a healthy 30-for-45 for 559 yards and 6 TDs, while Pitt’s experienced junior signal-caller Kenny Pickett has put up solid numbers of 47-for-78, 506 yards, and 2 TDs against better competition than what Penn State has faced thus far.
The deluge of NFL promos offered by the sites has slowed compared to Week 1. FOX Bet will have some weekend bet boosts, but they haven’t been revealed yet. As of Friday morning, all we have is FanDuel’s “1st Touchdown Bonus” offer.
It goes like this: Place a bet of $25 or more on a player prop for who you think will score the first touchdown in a game, and whether the bet wins or loses, you get a $5 site credit for every touchdown your player’s team scores.
Two caveats: You have to opt in, and this is only available for five games on the slate: Panthers-Bucs, Giants-Bills, Falcons-Eagles, Steelers-Seahawks, and Jets-Browns.
And one of those five, Carolina vs. Tampa Bay, is already in the books. If you picked anyone on Carolina, you lost your $25 and got no bonus cash, as the Panthers never found the end zone. The winning bet was on the Bucs’ Chris Godwin (with $10 of bonus money coming your way if you picked any Tampa player).
The individual pricing for the four remaining games isn’t out yet. But the most sound strategy here is certainly to take a player on a team with a shot at running up a high score. You might want to avoid the Bills-Giants game, with its total at FanDuel Sportsbook of 43.5. Eagles-Falcons, on the other hand, with an over-under of 52.5, offers a great chance to scoop some bonus cash. We’ll be curious to see the pricing on Eagles tight end Zach Ertz, who was slightly under-utilized in Week 1 and might get fed by Carson Wentz the first time Philly is in the red zone.
With eight of this Sunday’s 14 NFL games sporting a line of three points or fewer, it’s shaping up as an action-packed weekend for wagering. It looks like an awfully competitive slate — meaning bettors can still get their fill if the Penn State-Pitt probable blowout doesn’t interest them.
Photo by Charles LeClaire / USA Today Sports