Penn State was expected to battle in the Big Ten and then it needed overtime to beat Appalachian State. Whether that was a minor hiccup or something to expect this season remains to be seen. Pittsburgh may not be an elite team, but it’s a rivalry Game at Heinz Field. The Nittany Lions are -9 point favorites with an over/under of 56 at 5Dimes Sportsbook.
App. State is a solid team, but it also came into the year with a new sophomore quarterback and lesser expectations than usual. The Nittany Lions were 24-point favorites at home and needed overtime, which immediately showed some flaws in their defense that only returned three starters. That could make this Game plenty interesting, though it’s not like Pitt was overly impressive in its win over Albany. That said, the Panthers scored 33 points in the first half and didn’t need to do much afterward as no points were scored in the second half.
Either way, one player stands above the rest in this Game and that’s PSU quarterback Trace McSorley. He was iffy in the opener, only completing 20-of-35 passes for 229 yards, but he also ran for 53 yards and a couple touchdowns. Overall, his numbers were a bit disappointing considering the opponent. When these teams met last year, Pitt actually had more yards and 17 minutes more time of possession, yet the Lions won 33-14. It was an easy win because McSorley was the best quarterback on the field and he and Saquon Barkley combined for 6.2 yards per carry. This time around it’s Miles Sanders in the backfield and that’s another downgrade for the offense. The Lions will move the ball, but there are reasons why this Game could be back-and-forth.
In fact, when these teams played in Pittsburgh two years ago, the Panthers won 42-39 due to 341 yards on the ground. That’ll likely be the same approach they take in this one with Qadree Ollison leading the way after he managed 96 yards on 15 carries in last year’s meeting. To pull an upset, sophomore quarterback Kenny Pickett has to be smart with the ball. He was okay in the opener, yet had an interception against a bad defense. Pickett got plenty of offseason hype because he was the guy that led Pitt to a season finale upset of Miami, but he’s still inexperienced. The Panthers will aim for the same result using Ollison and Pickett in the ground Game and controlling the clock.
Because of that, this one has the makings of being lower scoring, especially if McSorley continues to have issues with accuracy. On the positive side for McSorley, the Lions have scored in bunches against Pitt in the past and points will be needed to win this Game. Yet due to PSU’s younger defense, it still makes sense to back the home team in this spot.
The Nittany Lions are 10-2-2 ATS vs. a team with a winning record and 7-2 ATS in their last nine road Games. The Panthers have covered in their last Four vs. a team with a winning record, yet are 8-20 ATS in their last 28 home Games. The underdog is 5-0-1 ATS in the last six meetings and that’s led to a 4-1-1 ATS record for Pitt. As of note, the last time these teams met before 2016 was back in 2000.
Our Pick – Penn State -9