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Akron

vs.

Penn State

College Football Pick

9/2/17

Coming off what was a somewhat surprising campaign that finished with a 52-49 Rose Bowl loss to USC, Penn State is back at it with a favorable opening game to get started. The Nittany Lions are -30.5 point favorites (at 5Dimes Sportsbook) against the MAC’s Akron.

The Zips finished with five wins last season and aren’t expected to finish with more than that this year. In their lone game against a power conference team in 2016, they were destroyed by Wisconsin 54-10. Against an offense that’s much more potent, Akron could allow 60-plus points in this game.

If Penn State reaches 60 points in this game, that may not be the only time it does this season. The Nittany Lions are loaded after running through Big Ten opponents toward the end of last season. Even getting to 38 against a solid Wisconsin defense in the conference title game was impressive.

With Trace McSorley and Saquon Barkley back to run the show, the Nittany Lions should be headed for at least 40 points per game this year. McSorley got better as the season went along and finished with 3,614 yards, 29 TDs and only eight picks, while also showing his mobility with 365 rushing yards and seven more touchdowns. Barkley is one of the better backs in the country after going for 1,496 yards and 18 TDs. The receiving game may be the biggest question for PSU, but DaeSean Hamilton and Saeed Blacknall aren’t major downgrades. Even the stout offensive line returns four starters.

Akron returns seven starters on the defensive side, including an experienced front, but it’s hard to see this group keeping up with Penn State. The Zips struggled to hold down any decent offense last year that included Western Michigan, Buffalo and Toledo. Expecting to hold the Nittany Lions below 40 points would be a stretch.

For Akron to cover this game, it’ll come down to what senior quarterback Thomas Woodson can do. The quarterback has battled injuries throughout the year, but if he can stay healthy, this team can compete in the conference. Woodson completed 60.3% of his passes for 18 TDs and 6 INTs last year, but missed five games. At the least, he’s apparently fully healthy after shoulder surgery in the spring. With Warren Ball in the backfield and a line that returns four starters, the Zips plan to reach a bowl this season, and at least competing against teams like Penn State would be a positive.

The Nittany Lions haven’t been as good defensively in recent years, but still sport a solid cast with seven returning starters and numerous guys that will play in the NFL. That includes linebacker Jason Cabinda and safety Marcus Allen.

After such an up-and-down season, it’s hard to gauge exactly what Akron will look like in this game. As for Penn State, they struggled early in 2016 before gaining steam. If the Lions show that same early-season rust, this game could be similar to the 33-13 win against Kent State in last year’s opener. From the outside, PSU should score 40 or 50 points, but that’s only if they immediately return to last year’s high-scoring ways.

Our Pick - Penn State -30.5

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