After easily getting past Indiana last week, things are about to get a lot harder for Penn State. Following this trip to Northwestern, the Nittany Lions host Michigan and then travel to Ohio State and Michigan State in the following two weeks. But even on the road here, Penn State was a large -14 point favorite early in the week at 5Dimes Sportsbook.
While Michigan is next on the Schedule for PSU, it can’t be forgotten that the Nittany Lions have next week off so there shouldn’t be a problem with looking ahead. The main problem will be covering in a road Game as Northwestern is a much better team at home. Throw in Penn State’s close win at Iowa a couple weeks ago with how Northwestern competed at Wisconsin last week (33-24 loss) and this is set to be a good Game.
The toughest thing with betting this matchup is determining what Northwestern team will show up. As long as the Wildcats play up to their potential in a home Game, they should keep this close. But as seen in the Duke loss earlier in the season, that may not be the case. And while the Nittany Lions barely won at Iowa, they still almost went for almost 600 total yards against them.
Led by one of the Heisman frontrunners in Saquon Barkley, no one has been able to limit this offense yet with Iowa the best defense this team has faced. Northwestern has shown potential, but this still isn’t one of the better groups in the conference. As a positive for the Wildcats, they held Wisconsin to just 2.9 yards per carry last week so that will be a reason to back them.
The reason to back PSU is that Barkley has 574 rushing yards, 386 receiving yards and six total touchdowns. And if the defense focuses on Barkley like Indiana did last week (2.8 yards per carry), then Trace McSorley can do the rest for the offense, as he looks set to match last year’s 29 passing touchdowns, already with 12.
But with a two-touchdown spread, Northwestern will have a chance to cover as long as it can Scoreand this offense has the tools to do so. While the Wildcats couldn’t run the ball against Wisky last week, Clayton Thorson stepped up and threw three touchdowns to keep the Scorerespectable and to get Northwestern a cover. The good thing is that Penn State’s defense isn’t at the same level as Wisconsin’s and Justin Jackson may be able to find a little more room in this one. That said, Jackson has failed to get anything going against any decent team he’s faced this season with a combined 43 yards against Duke and Wisconsin. If Jackson struggles in this one, that’ll mean Penn State will control the clock and the Game.
Playing at home, the Wildcats are a decent team to back, but betting against this Penn State team with Barkley and McSorley isn’t an easy thing. The Wildcats are 7-2 ATS in their last nine Conference Games, but the Nittany Lions are 12-2-2 ATS in their last 16 overall.
Our Pick – Penn St -13.5