2013-14 Penn State Nittany Lions Predictions and College Football Odds
by Trevor Whenham - 7/23/2013
It’s a strange, strange world for Penn State. Thanks to sanctions that seem like they will never end, nothing that this team does will matter this year or for years to come. That means that motivation has to come from different places than for other teams. Pride. Playing for personal futures. Looking to mess up other teams. There are several potential motivations, but none of them are typical, and that makes handicapping the Nittany Lions tougher than almost any other team in the country.
I feel like I owe Bill O’Brien an apology. I was absolutely certain that he was over his head and doomed last year. Instead, despite a shocking lack of depth, he coached like few before him have and wound up with eight wins. Remarkable. Almost impossible. Now the trick is for him to maintain it. Last year he could pull on unique motivations — the world was out to get his team, and they could show them how wrong they were. That won’t work this year. Now we get to see if O’Brien is really as good as he looked or if he was just able to maximize the situation he was thrust into. To his credit, O’Brien had legitimate chances to leave for seemingly better spots in this offseason, yet he chose to stay. That might mean we should question his decision-making, but more significantly it shows the commitment he has to the program. His players will certainly take note of that.
The offense has depth issues like everywhere else on the field. Despite that, though, there is a shocking amount of good talent among the pass catchers. WR Allen Robinson is probably the team’s best player at this point, and there are several tight ends who could start for many teams. The success of the offense really hinges on the ability of the team to find a quarterback. Blue chip freshman QB Christian Hackenberg is the player of the future and an ideal player for O’Brien’s system. The sooner he can take the mantel and run with it, the better. It would definitely be worth playing him now even if he doesn’t give the team the best chance to win now, because the team has no reason not to look towards the future. Because of that, bettors will really have to focus on what the team is trying to accomplish as the season continues.
On defense the recurring theme is creativity. Players are being moved all over the place in order to make up for a lack of depth and a lack of ideal fits in several positions. There are few players who are perfect for their situation, so it is abnormally tough to judge how the team will fare and how we should bet on them as a result. This team will require close observation early in the season in hopes of finding an edge as the season progresses.
Penn State Schedule Analysis
I wasn’t more wrong about any team last year than I was about Penn State. I expected them to redefine lousy, but they were more than solid — especially given their circumstances. They have the schedule this year to put together another surprisingly solid season. In fact, as I see it 8-4 is a bare minimum for this squad. With a nonconference schedule of Syracuse, Eastern Michigan, UCF and Kent State, and conference games against Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota and Purdue, there are plenty of very winnable games.
It is the other four games that are interesting, and that will ultimately define what kind of season this is for the team. They host Michigan on Oct. 12 and then have a week off before travelling to play at Ohio State. That’s the two best teams in the Big Ten in consecutive games. Later, they host Nebraska and then travel to Wisconsin the next week to finish the season out. A win or two from among those four games and the coaching job of Bill O’Brien moves from admirable to downright remarkable.
2013-14 Penn State Betting Odds and Trends
You obviously can’t bet on Penn State to win any postseason titles, so don’t get suckered in by anyone. They are favored by five points in their opener on the road at Syracuse. (All odds are from BetOnline) The Nittany Lions were a big surprise to everyone, including oddsmakers and the betting public last year — they were 9-2-1 ATS. They went “over” the total seven times in 12 tries.
2013-14 Penn State Nittany Lions Predictions and College Football Picks
Their 8-4 mark was a remarkable record last year. Matching that output would be a success for this season. There are eight games on the schedule that are very winnable, so there is a reasonable chance that the team can match that effort. The four tougher opponents are Michigan, Ohio State, Nebraska and Wisconsin. Just one win from among those four games would be great, but the defensive issues combined with the youth up front makes that seem less than likely. I think seven wins is a reasonable target for the squad.
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