Penn State Nittany Lions Odds to win the College Football National Championship with Expert Betting Predictions
It was an odd year for the Nittany Lions. They were 2-2 after four games and were crushed by Michigan by 39 points. It had the feeling of a lost season. But then they went on a roll. They won their last eight regular-season games, including a huge 24-21 win against then No. 2 Ohio State. That win was good enough to give them the division title after Ohio State beat Michigan in double overtime, and after beating Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game they represented the conference in the Rose Bowl. That's obviously not where they wanted to be, of course, but despite beating Ohio State and finishing above them in the conference standings it was the Buckeyes who got the playoff berth. Frustrated, Penn State lost a very exciting game to USC 52-49.
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All in all it was a year good enough to win James Franklin multiple Coach of the Year honors. But will they be able to carry the momentum forward and again come out on top of a very tough Big Ten? Or was last year just a perfect situation?
Key Additions and Departures
What's striking about this team is that they lost just one player to the draft - receiver Chris Godwin went in the third round. That means that they return much of their important core, including the dynamic duo of all-world running back Saquon Barkley and QB Trace McSorley. Two starting offensive linemen are gone, though, so that could have an impact on what the two stars can do. They also face significant turnover on the defensive line, including the loss of ends Garrett Sickles and Evan Schwan, who both landed with NFL teams as undrafted free agents.
They welcome a Top 15 recruiting class, which includes just one five-star - corner Lamont Wade. It's a solid group of 21 players, but it remains to be seen how much of an impact the group has this year.
Penn State Nittany Lions Schedule Analysis
The first six games are very manageable. Nonconference action is easy, with a home game against Pitt the toughest test. Pitt beat Clemson last year, so anything is possible, but the Nittany Lions should be better. Games against Iowa in Week 4 and Northwestern two weeks later could both be tough as well. But make no mistake, the season all comes down to games seven and eight. After a bye week, the team hosts Michigan and then travels to Ohio State. One of those three teams will win the division and likely the conference, so those two games will be crucial to the hopes of all three teams.
Last year they were humiliated by Michigan, so they will have revenge on their minds. And they also can't be too happy about having lost a playoff berth despite beating Ohio State, so they will be looking to get some revenge for that as well. From there things again get much easier, with a season-ending road game at Maryland the toughest potential game. If this team is as good as they think they are, though, then 10 wins should be the floor, and the big two opponents will determine how far this team can go. All in all it could be a worse schedule for a team trying to make some noise, though playing their two toughest games back-to-back is far from ideal.
2017-18 Penn State Nittany Lions Betting Odds and Trends
BetOnline has Penn State at +2000 to win the national title, which has them as the eighth team overall but the third in the Big Ten behind Ohio State and Michigan. They are also third in Big Ten futures, but behind different teams - Ohio State is the strong -115 favorite, and Wisconsin is at +300. Penn State is at +500, and Michigan is fourth at +600 here. Oddsmakers certainly aren't concerned about the team's opener, though - they are favored by 33 against Akron. Both of the biggest offensive stars are viable Heisman threats this year - Barkley is the fourth choice and highest non-QB at +900, and McSorley is at +2000. The risk, of course, is that the two will cancel each other out.
The team's betting performance last year mirrored their performance on the scoreboard. They were a dismal 1-3-1 ATS through their first five games, but then they covered their last nine straight spreads to wind up as a nicely-profitable team. They were more consistent on the totals, having gone "over" in 11 of 14 games, including the first five, and six of the last seven.
2017-18 Penn State Nittany Lions Predictions and College Football Picks
I don't like this team as much as a lot of people seem to. Barkley and McSorley are very good, and that is a huge boost for them. They don't have the depth that Michigan and especially Ohio State have, though, and just don't have the overall talent level among the starters to match. I also don't trust James Franklin in head-to-head showdowns with the best of the conference. This will be a solid team, but I expect them to lose both of those big games. That means that they won't find themselves in the Rose Bowl again in all likelihood. It will be a solid year, but last year was a bit of a blip.
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