Oddsmakers expect a rebound from Penn State following its wayward 2020 season and consider the Nittany Lions a good bet in 2021, particularly at home.
The Vegas Stats and Information Network (VSiN) released a 343-page betting guide to the 2021 college football season, in which Penn State landed plenty of positive feedback. The Lions are tied for third with Iowa in the Big Ten power ratings (53.5), just a half-point behind Wisconsin. Ohio State (64) is the clear favorite to win another Big Ten title.
But the Lions catch some favorable betting advice, along with one red flag early in the season. Here are six nuggets of betting insight from VSiN to consider about Penn State in 2021.
Take the over
Penn State's over-under for total wins this season is 8.5. VSiN likes the over on this play, based largely on an early four-game homestand that concludes in October with "a chance for revenge" against Indiana.
Penn State also concludes the regular season with a four-game stretch in which it is favored in every matchup: at Maryland (-8), Michigan (-7), Rutgers (-20.5) and at Michigan State (-10). That means, Penn State would need to win one of its road games at Wisconsin, Iowa or Ohio State to hit the over.
Penn State's home-field advantage returns
Penn State was under .500 against the spread at Beaver Stadium last year, an anomaly VSiN attributed largely to pandemic-caused empty home sites. The handicapping site predicts that home-field advantage will return to college football this season, a major boost for Penn State. The Lions are favored in all seven of their home games.
Lean into the Penn State-Auburn game
Like many college football fans, VSiN loves the fact that Auburn will make its first visit to Beaver Stadium this season. VSiN also likes Penn State as a 4-point favorite and further considers Auburn to be a team to bet against this season.
"What a spectacular, odd, lovely out-of-conference game between two historic programs that have rarely played," VSiN writes of the Sept. 18 Whiteout game. "And the fact that this game will take place in Happy Valley is a) superb for all of us and b) a big reason he spread is currently north of a touchdown. For teams with mixed expectations heading into the year, this is a massive tussle."
What to make of Penn State's 'Stability Score'?
Despite replacing three assistants this offseason, Penn State coach James Franklin and his team get fairly high marks for stability. VSiN has devised a metric known as Stability Score, which gauges a team's experience level based on the head coach, coordinators, quarterback and number of returning starters.
Penn State's Stability Score is 14, a decent ranking in the Big Ten. The Lions get longevity points for Franklin, defensive coordinator Brent Pry, third-year quarterback Sean Clifford and 15 returning starters. New offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich, who has clicked quickly with Clifford, is an intriguing wild card in his first year with the Lions.
Penn State's opponents carry a variety of Stability Scores, ranging from perfect 19s for Ball State and Rutgers to 7 for Auburn and 8 for Illinois. Other notable scores: Wisconsin (17), Iowa (17) and Ohio State (12).
Watch out for the Penn State-Ball State game
Yes, the Lions are 14-point favorites against Ball State in their first home game before fans since November 2019. Still, this might be a tantalizing option for those betting Ball State.
Four VSiN oddsmakers predict Ball State to repeat as the MAC champ. The Cardinals will bring a perfect Stability Score to Beaver Stadium, returning their head coach, both coordinators, quarterback and 19 other starters.
Further, VSiN last year slotted Ball State to go 10-1 and win the conference. The Cardinals ultimately went 7-1 and won the MAC.
Bet the rebound
Here's an interesting stat: According to VSiN, Penn State is one of 14 teams over the last eight seasons to bring back 13 or more starters, including a quarterback, from a team that outscored opponents despite a losing record.
Those teams were profitable 52.9 percent of the time the following season, per VSIN. So bet the Penn State rebound.
Is Penn State a good bet to win the Big Ten?
VSiN lists Penn State and Minnesota as the two divisional "live dogs" behind Ohio State and Wisconsin. Notably, VSiN considers Penn State "certainly a program with a chip on its shoulder after last year's disaster."
However, winning the Big Ten might be a betting stretch.
"The Nittany Lions look to be prime candidates for a rebound season but will go only as far as Clifford can take them," VSiN concludes. "More than likely, Penn State will fall short of eclipsing the Buckeyes but will return to normalcy."
Visit the VSiN site to order the College Football Betting Guide.
Penn State's 2021 Betting Odds
- Sept. 4: Penn State (+3) at Wisconsin
- Sept. 11: Penn State (-14) vs. Ball State
- Sept. 18: Penn State (-4) vs. Auburn
- Sept. 25: Penn State (-32.5) vs. Villanova
- Oct. 2: Penn State (-5) vs. Indiana
- Oct. 9: Penn State (+3) at Iowa
- Oct. 23: Penn State (-20.5) vs. Illinois
- Oct. 30: Penn State (+12.5) at Ohio State
- Nov. 6: Penn State (-8) at Maryland
- Nov. 13: Penn State (-7) vs. Michigan
- Nov. 20: Penn State (-20.5) vs. Rutgers
- Nov. 27: Penn State (-10) at Michigan State