Penn State Nittany Lions Odds to win the College Football National Championship with Expert Betting Predictions
Last year Trace McSorley, the now fifth-year senior quarterback, was an easy guy to respect, and he got a lot of credit for success at Penn State. But he was in the shadow of mammoth running back megastar Saquon Barkley. Now Barkley is off for fortune and, perhaps, fame. That means that this is unquestionably McSorley's team now. He faces a tough schedule, a team with a lot of new faces, a re-jigged offensive coaching staff missing their star coach, and mammoth expectations. But few things have bothered him up to this point in this career, and few players hold the fat of their teams in their hands - as a player and a leader - more than he does.
2017 in a Nutshell
Through seven weeks the Nittany Lions were absolutely rolling last year. They blazed through a complete joke of a nonconference schedule. Then they won four straight conference games, capped by an absolute decimation of Michigan at home. They were No. 2 in the country and dreaming of a title. But then they hit rough times. They lost by a single point at Ohio State and then by a field goal at Michigan State. Those were their only two losses - they beat up on Rutgers, Nebraska and Maryland to close things out - but they were fatal. They still wound up in the FIesta Bowl, beating Washington, but it was far short of where they wanted to be.
Key Additions and Departures
The offense has a gigantic hole in it this year, and it's not just because all-World back Saquon Barkley went to the Giants with the second pick in the NFL Draft. Barkley takes a whole lot of production with him, but also gone are receiver DaeSean Hamilton, who has the all-time school record for receptions, and standout tight end Mike Gesicki. The latter two scored a combined 18 times last year, and Barkley had a total of 24 scores, so the team has lost a whole lot.
It's not just the offense that has taken hits. On defense they return just one starting linebacker and no starters from the secondary. The team has depth, but that depth is going to be tested mightily this season. Luckily the team had a very strong recruiting year to add to that depth.
Changes happened in the coaching staff as well. Most notably, outstanding offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead has left to be the head coach at Mississippi State. Tight end coach Ricky Rahne has moved up to replace him.
Biggest Area of Concern
You would think it would be running back with Barkley gone, but they added five-star recruit Ricky Slade this year to a group that already included Miles Sanders, a five-star who was the top running back of the 2016 class. They should be reasonably fine there, though obviously they won't completely replace Barkley. The bigger concern is at linebacker, a position that this school has essentially defined for years. Their top three tacklers are gone, and they have some nice pieces - like five-star recruit Micah Parsons - but they don't add up to any certainty at this point.
Penn State Nittany Lions Schedule Analysis
The team took a lot of criticism for a joke of a nonconference schedule last year, and this year is no better. They open by hosting Appalachian State, play at Pitt in a game that is more about tradition than a real test, and then host Kent State. They are a lock for 4-0 when they play at Illinois to open Big Ten play. But then things get real when Ohio State comes to town, and then Michigan State arrives in town after a bye week. If they can do better against those two than they did last year then they get some relief in the form of Indiana and Iowa. But then they play at what should be a much-improved Michigan and then they host Wisconsin in another deadly double. Again, things ease up as they finish things off at Rutgers and then home to Maryland. The season all comes down to four games - which is more or less true for all the top contenders in the very deep Big Ten.
2018-19 Penn State Nittany Lions Betting Odds and Trends
Bovada has Penn State as the fourth choice to win the Big Ten at +600 behind Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan. They are tied with Michigan as the second choice to win the Big Ten East at +350, behind Ohio State at +105. They are tied with Wisconsin as the eighth choice to win the national title at +2500. Trace McSorley is a solid contender, though not a favorite, to win the Heisman at +2000. The season win total is set at 9.5, with the "under" slightly favored.
2018-19 Penn State Nittany Lions Predictions and College Football Picks
I struggle to be optimistic that this team will exceed the expectations that the odds suggest for them. They play four very tough games, and I am not convinced that they will be the better team in more than one of them. Anything can and does happen in this sport, but I expect a slight step back for the team, and nine wins is more likely than 11 or 12. They will be good but not quite good enough in a loaded conference.
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