Sportsbooks’ NCAA Betting Boards Finally Look Flush With Penn State’s Return

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With the start of Penn State’s delayed season this Saturday in Bloomington, Ind., Pennsylvanians who enjoy both betting on and watching NCAA football finally have the kind of weekend to which they’re long accustomed.

The COVID-19 pandemic initially prompted the Big Ten to scratch the fall 2020 season, but its university presidents relented Sept. 15 in approving an eight-game, conference-only season.

And that season begins Saturday, with the Nittany Lions, ranked 8th nationally, visiting Indiana University as 5.5-to-6-point favorites against a Hoosiers team that is tougher than usual for that program.

Considering Penn State’s longtime success and massive following across the state, the contest will no doubt get the busiest college betting action this week among the 10 online sportsbooks available in Pennsylvania.

But Pitt has a big game of its own Saturday, hosting Notre Dame as a 10.5-to-11-point underdog against the Fighting Irish. And Temple visits Memphis as a 13.5-point underdog in what is expected to be one of the highest-scoring games of the week.

PSU always strong, but so is OSU

Penn State finished 11-2 in 2019 (7-2 in the Big Ten), and coach James Franklin has the typical wealth of talent to rely on, even without two of last year’s biggest stars: linebacker Micah Parsons, who opted out of playing in this COVID season, and running back Journey Brown, who is sidelined by a heart issue.

While Ohio State remains the cream of the conference, as an odds-on favorite (-300 at most sportsbooks) to win it, Penn State is generally paired with Wisconsin as the Buckeyes’ closest contenders to emerge victorious from a title game that will be played Dec. 19.

DraftKings has the Lions +550 to win the Big Ten, while FanDuel and FOX Bet make them +650.

Most of the sites that post national championship odds make Penn State 30/1, while Kambi-backed sites like DraftKings and BetRivers are using 33/1.

Indiana returns most of its starters from a team that went 8-5 (5-4) last year, including a 34-27 loss in Happy Valley. But Indiana is 1-22 all-time vs. Penn State and has never beaten a Franklin-coached team in six tries.

Despite that, the line has shifted slightly in Indiana’s favor since the start of the week, when Penn State was a 6.5-point favorite. Now the Kambi-backed sites and Caesars have it favored by 6, and FanDuel, FOX Bet, and BetAmerica all have 5.5.

The best moneyline price for a Penn State bettor is the -213 from FOX Bet. The points total over/under is 59 at Kambi sites and 58.5 at others.

The game is being nationally televised by FS1, with kickoff at 3:30 p.m.

Disappointing Pitt looks for annual big upset

Pitt’s record has fallen to 3-3 after its third straight loss, 31-19, to Miami (Fla.). The only solace for Pitt fans is that under coach Pat Narduzzi, the program has been known for one signature win each season as a big underdog, such as a last-second win at second-ranked Clemson in November 2016, followed by a win against second-ranked Miami the following year.

Bettors might want to take that into account with the Panthers as double-digit underdogs at 3:30 p.m. hosting third-ranked Notre Dame. The Irish are 4-0, but with all of the games at home and against no stellar opponents (Duke, South Florida, Florida State, Louisville).

Pitt can be bet for the ABC-televised game as 11-point underdogs at the Kambi sportsbooks, while others make the spread 10.5. FanDuel offers the best return on a Pitt moneyline bet, at +360.

Most sites have the points o/u at 43.5, with BetAmerica a smidge lower at 43.

Scoreboard might explode in Memphis

The Temple-Memphis contest features two teams that between them have averaged 36 points a game, while giving up 34.

That has led to a whopping over/under as high as 72 (FOX Bet, BetAmerica) for their noon clash in Tennessee. The Kambi sites list the point total at 71, with others in-between.

Temple (1-1) only beat South Florida 39-37 as a heavy favorite last weekend, while Memphis (2-1) edged Central Florida, 50-49.

The sites all agree on the Owls as 13.5-point underdogs, with the most favorable moneyline price on them being +400 from Caesars.

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Gary Rotstein

Gary is a longtime journalist, having spent three decades covering gambling, state government, and other issues for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, in addition to stints as managing editor of the Bedford (Pa.) Gazette and as a reporter for United Press International and the Middletown (Conn.) Press. Contact Gary at gary@usbets.com.

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