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Pittsburgh

vs.

Penn State

College Football Pick

9/9/17

Penn State is going to be a fun team to watch this season and that was evident in last week’s 52-0 blowout of Akron. The Nittany Lions haven’t let up since early last year and continue gashing opponents with a balanced passing and rushing attack. With revenge on their mind against Pittsburgh this Saturday, they were -21 point favorites at 5Dimes Sportsbook.

While the Panthers won this game last year, that line could be a bit small. Pittsburgh is coming off an underwhelming 28-21 overtime win against Youngstown State. With former USC quarterback Max Browne under center, they jumped to a 21-point, first-half lead before letting up the rest of the way to eventually win in overtime.

But Penn State doesn’t care what Pittsburgh looked like in its first game because the Panthers won this game last year 42-39 before the Nittany Lions were known as one of the better in the country. Pitt led the entire way, aided by an early Penn State fumble. While Saquon Barkley ran for 85 yards and four touchdowns to go with Trace McSorley’s 332 yards, the Panthers controlled the game from the start. Even with James Conner gone, Pitt will take the same run-first approach in the rematch after gouging PSU for 341 rushing yards in last year’s meeting.

The Panthers did exactly that against Youngstown State last week with Qadree Ollison (91 yards, 2 TDs) now the lead back, supplemented by Quadree Henderson and Darrin Hall. They’ll run the ball as much as possible and it’ll be up to the Penn State defense to cover this game. If Pittsburgh has success running again, then this could be another back-and-forth contest. Browne comes over from USC, but as made evident in the opener, this will still be a run-first team.

Penn State’s defense is what could hold this team back from being truly elite and this will be a good test for them. Beating up on Akron is nice, but that didn’t tell us anything about how good this team will be. There’s a chance Pitt runs all over the Lions again and no matter what McSorley and Barkley do, it probably wouldn’t be enough to cover.

That said, McSorley and Barkley can do a lot as one of the best QB-RB duos in the country. Neither was all that great in last year’s matchup and both will undoubtedly want to change that at home against Pittsburgh. McSorley got his feet wet last game (25 pass attempts), but this is the type of matchup he could exploit against a press-heavy secondary. As for Barkley, he should be in for another 100-yard game after going for 172 yards in the opener.

Pittsburgh returns just four starters on the defensive side and had an up-and-down first game of the season. They gave 300 passing yards to go with 4.1 yards per carry against an FCS school. That being the case, watch out for the Nittany Lions aiming for 50 points in this one. But to get that cover, it’ll depend on what PSU can do on the defensive side because as seen last year, Pitt’s ground game will be an obstacle.

Our Pick - Pitt +21

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