The battle for the Keystone State commences this weekend, as Penn State plays host to Pittsburgh. The game is set for 3:30 EST on Saturday, September 9, at Beaver Stadium in University Park, Pennsylvania. The game can be seen on ABC.
Oddsmakers have made Penn State a 20.5-point favorite in this matchup. That’s up slightly after the Nittany Lions opened as 20-point favorites. Click here for a full list of Week 2 betting odds and links to game previews.
Penn State vs. Pitt Game Preview & Betting Odds
The Nittany Lions were one of the more impressive teams in college football the first week of the season. They were favored by 33 points against Akron and ended up obliterating the Zips 52-0.
Saquon Barkley made a great first impression on his Heisman Trophy campaign. He rushed for 172 yards and two touchdowns on just 14 carries. Senior quarterback Trace McSorley was equally impressive, completing 18 of 25 passes for 280 yards. Of course, the Penn State defense was not to be outdone, holding Akron to just 86 yards passing and 73 yards rushing.
Pitt was not quite as impressive, needing overtime to take care of Youngstown State. The Panthers had a comfortable 21-0 lead at halftime and looked poised to cruise to an easy win. However, they let the Penguins score 21 unanswered points in the second half to force overtime.
The question is now whether Pitt’s poor second half was a sign of things to come or merely a team taking its foot off the gas. The Panthers had to replace six starters in their front-7 as well as a quarterback, running back, and two offensive linemen who were selected in the NFL Draft. That could lead to some growing pains early in the year. However, they need to figure things out in a hurry before their trip to Happy Valley this weekend.
Free Betting Pick & Prediction Against the Odds: Penn State -20.5
A year ago, the Panthers beat the Nittany Lions 42-39. Penn State has no doubt been looking forward to the rematch for a full year. After their blowout of Akron last week, I’m comfortable picking the Nittany Lions to cover a nearly three-touchdown spread as they seek revenge against Pitt.
These two teams are drastically different since last season’s meeting, especially Pitt. The Panthers beat Penn State a year ago on the back of a dominant running game that the Nittany Lions simply could not stop.
Unfortunately for Pitt, James Conner is gone. The Panthers are left with the trio of Qadree Ollison, Quadree Henderson, and Darrin Hall. Ollison appears poised to take the lead role. After all, he was ACC Offensive Rookie of the Year two years ago. But he’s questionable for Saturday’s game with an ankle injury. Penn State’s front-7 is also in better shape than it was at the start of last season. Moreover, the jury is still out on whether USC transfer Max Browne can lead the Pitt offense.
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In this year’s game, Penn State is the team with a quarterback and running back who are on their way to the NFL. Meanwhile, Pitt’s defense allowed more than 300 yards passing against Youngstown State last week. That doesn’t bode well for the Panthers slowing down McSorley this week, especially since they’ll have to devote much of their focus to containing Barkley.
To be fair, the Panthers have a shot in this game. But it’s hard not to see that the Nittany Lions are the more talented team. Penn State also has home-field advantage and a lot more confidence after last week’s games, not to mention plenty of motivation to avenge last year’s loss to the Panthers. The spread is rather high, but I’m still confident that Penn State will cover it during a convincing win over Pitt.