Penn State @ Northwestern NCAA Football Betting Preview

Posted by Daniel Strum on Friday,November 6, 2015 9:51, EST in

After securing a shutout home win over Illinois last weekend, the Penn State Nittany Lions (7-2) hit the road this week to take on the Northwestern Wildcats 6-2 in a delightful showdown at the Ryan Field Stadium on Saturday. These two programs met last season at the Beaver Stadium, where Northwestern was able to pull off an upset win over the then-undefeated Penn State program. This time, it is the other way round, with the Nittany Lions coming into this contest with a boosted momentum, having played what could be considered their best game under head coach James Franklin last week. Their focus, as you’d guess, it to ride on that momentum and avenge last year’s loss to Northwestern. Will the Lions succeed in their mission, or will the Wildcats, who’ve equally been very solid this season, make it back-to-back wins in this developing rivalry? Detailed below is a comprehensive college football odds preview of this game, inclusive of free picks prepared to guide your wagers in the game.

How To Bet the Nittany Lions @ Wildcats NCAA Football Odds, TV & Game Info

Venue: Ryan Field, Evanston, IL
Date: Saturday, November 07, 2015
Time: 12:00 PM ET
TV: ESPNU
TV Stream: WatchESPN
NCAAF Odds: Penn State (+2.5) Northwestern (-2.5)

Why Bet on The Northwestern Wildcats

The Wildcats surprised many in the Big Ten this year after starting 5-0, including an upset over Stanford at the start of the season. However, Northwestern stumbled in back-to-back weeks against Michigan and Iowa, sort of derailing their momentum. But to their credit, they rebounded with a win over Nebraska in Week 8 before taking some much-needed rest in their Week 9 bye. Entering this game, the Wildcats are therefore fresh off a bye week with the players well-rested and extra-prepared to handle Penn State, whose two losses this season have come on the road.

In their last game before the bye week, the Wildcats showed character, securing a tight 30-28 win over Nebraska. QB Clayton Thorson completed 13 of 28 passes in that game for 177 yards and one TD through the air. Dan Vitale was his hottest target of the day, collecting five receptions for 55 yards with one TD. The duo will be charged with the responsibility of leading the Wildcats against the Lions. This, of course, won’t be easy, especially for Thorson and his O-line, as they’ll be going against Penn State’s solid defense that leads the country with an average of 3.8 sacks per game.

As for Northwestern defense, the team is seventh-ranked in the nation in pass defense,  giving up only 164.8 passing yards per game. Deductively, that defense means that the Lions’ passing offense—that is averaging 167.6 passing yards per game over the last five weeks, higher than their season average of 145.6 yards—will be equally tested in a tough way by the Wildcats’ talented defense.

Why Bet on the Penn State Nittany Lions

Notably, the test against Northwestern will mark the start of Penn State’s toughest three-game stretch this season, with games against Michigan and Michigan State following up in Week 11 and 12. All the three programs have a winning record, meaning James Franklin’s team will need to take this week’s game—which is considerably easier of the three—very seriously.

That being said, the Lions have been able to fight through inconsistent play in recent seasons and have started to show huge improvements, winning seven of their last eight games. Most recently, they have won two in a row after thrashing Illinois 39-0 this past weekend. In that win over the Illini, QB Christian Hackenberg was back to his throwing best, completing 21 of 29 for 266 yards with 2 TDs through the air. Chris Godwin also impressed with a quality receiving performance, pulling in seven receptions for 76 yards and one TD. Given that Penn State’s running game hasn’t been as solid, the Lions will only go as far as Hackenberg throws the ball, so the QB will need to find a winning formula to beat the aforementioned tricky Northwestern defensive line.

The Nittany Lions defense also impressed in last week’s win, with defensive end Carl Nassib particularly showing a lot of commendable poise in the D-line. Nassib had a couple of important tackles and one sack in the win over Illinois, giving him 14.5 sacks for the year and putting him just a half-sack away from tying the school’s season record. As a whole, the defense recorded four sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss in the last outing, using their typical formula of wearing down opponents through relentless pass rushing. In essence, that’s why they limited Illinois to a mere 1.4 yards per rush, just 2.4 yards per play and a meager 167 total yards offense with zero points. The Wildcats’ offense must take not of this defense and have a counter-plan, or Nassib and Co. will condemn them to a forgetful night.

Key NCAAF Betting Trends

• The Wildcats are 6-2 SU in their last eight games
• The Nittany Lions are 7-1 SU in their last eight games
• The Wildcats are 5-13 ATS in their last 18 games at home
• The Wildcats are 1-6 SU in their last seven games when playing Penn State
• The Nittany Lions are 6-1 SU in their last seven games when playing Northwestern
• The Wildcats are 1-5 ATS in their last six games when playing Penn State
• The Nittany Lions are 5-1 ATS in their last six games when playing Northwestern
• The total has gone UNDER in four of Northwestern’s last five games at home
• The total has gone UNDER in six of Penn State’s last eight games on the road

My Expert Game Predictions & Picks

Although Hackenberg can be very lethal offensively, he will be going against a defense that is guaranteed to frustrate his passing game. Similarly, Nassib (who we predict to break the sack record this week) and his fellow defensive players look the part of making life hard for Northwestern’ defense. Taking such factors into account, a contained scoring affair looks to be in the books, so bettors should expect an UNDER in the total NCAAF lines.

As for the winning (SU and ATS) pick, the scores will almost most definitely stay close, but in the end, Northwestern looks most likely to pull away with a win and cover over the road-shaky Lions. So simply put, take Northwestern for both the SU and ATS, along with an UNDER total.