Penn State vs. Minnesota College Football Picks and Expert Predictions
Penn State Nittany Lions at Minnesota Golden Gophers, Saturday November 9, Noon ET
We are in unknown territory, having two games between unbeaten teams on the same day this late in the season. Few people would be surprised that LSU and Alabama make up one of those matchups. But if you had bet before the season that Penn State and Minnesota would be the other, you could have made a whole lot of money. Penn State is doing some version of what they were expected to do - though they are at the higher end of their possible range because they are currently occupying a playoff spot.
But Minnesota has been one of the true, and pleasant, surprises of the year so far. P.J. Fleck took a while to gain traction in Minnesota, but in his third season he has really turned things around with this start. And the team has rewarded him with a fat new extension this week to ward off potential advances from Florida State, USC and other programs likely in the market for coaches. A high-profile game like this is old hat for the Nittany Lions. This is what they do. But this is new territory for Minnesota. They haven't seen success like this in a long time - and very rarely at that. Inexperience can be a blessing or a curse. And there is a talent deficit that the Gophers have to deal with, too. Our heads tell us how this game is likely to turn out. But our hearts can always hope for something more interesting.
Penn State at Minnesota Betting Storylines
You can't fluke into an 8-0 start. A lot of things have to be going well for that to happen. But there is no doubt that the schedule has been a big part of this strong start for Minnesota. You could make the argument that the most complete and dangerous team that they have played is South Dakota State, an FCS squad. The other two nonconference opponents were Fresno State and Georgia Southern. And the five Big Ten Opponents - Purdue, Illinois, Rutgers, Nebraska and Maryland - are a combined 8-22 to this point. You would really struggle to put together a schedule any easier than that one. Penn State is on a whole new plane than what the Gophers have seen. Now, it's not like the Nittany Lions have played the toughest schedule so far, but their wins at Iowa and against Michigan are dramatically better than anything Minnesota has.
The biggest issue Minnesota faces in this one is their run game. It has been the key to recent success, piling up more than 300 yards in three of their last four games. It has been impressive, and it helps them control the clock better than any Big Ten team aside from Wisconsin. But Penn State has been incredibly stingy against the run, giving up just two yards per carry on the season. Only Michigan has managed to move the ball on the ground, and that only came in the second half after the Wolverines had been shut down until then. Given the athleticism advantage that Penn State has here, it is tough to believe that the Gophers will be able to break through, and that as much as anything else makes it tough to imagine a scenario where the Gophers can control this one.
Penn State at Minnesota Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with Penn State favored by six points on the road. It has climbed since then, with the Nittany Lions drawing more than 60 percent of the bets on the game. It can be found at both 6.5 and 7, so it is definitely worth shopping around for a line depending upon which team you are betting on. The total opened at 48 and has fallen only slightly to 47.5.
Penn State is a very strong 19-7-2 ATS in their last 28 games against teams with winning records. They are 12-5 ATS in their last 17 road games. The Gophers have covered the spread in their last five conference games and their last six games overall. They are 33-16-2 ATS in their last 51 games played in November.
Penn State at Minnesota Predictions and Picks
I'm a romantic by nature, so this kind of game is tough for me. My head tells me that the Gophers might do some damage early through the boost of the home crowd, the chip on their shoulder, and having nothing to lose. But ultimately, the deeper, more talented, more experienced Penn State squad will grind down the Gophers and come out ahead - likely by enough to cover this spread. So, on that level the pick is pretty straightforward, and the bulk of the betting public is on the right side. But there is no fun in that. I would much rather see Minnesota pull off a miracle here, pulling off a monumental upset and validating the risk the school took in pursuing and then investing heavily in a young, innovative coach on the rise. So, I wish I could pick Minnesota, The world would be better if I could. But Penn State is the pick.
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