This article is part of our College Football Picks series.
Penn State vs. Northwestern Odds, Picks, and Predictions for College Football Week 5
In the Big Ten, Ohio State sucks up a lot of the oxygen. The Buckeyes are perennial title contenders. Michigan, as Ohio State's top rival and no slouch itself, gets plenty of love too. This year, the Minnesota Golden Gophers are the darling of the conference, swiftly rising up the proverbial charts. With all that, Penn State is somehow under the radar, even though they are ranked 11th in the AP poll and, I think, a good shout to be a top-10 team when the season ends. This week, the Nittany Lions are hosting Northwestern in Happy Valley, not that Northwestern has much to be happy about. Swiftly, the Wildcats have come to appear to be one of the worst teams in a Power Five conference. This one could get ugly.
Penn State vs. Northwestern Odds for Week 3
Spread: Penn State -26.5 (FanDuel Sportsbook)
Total: 52.5 (FanDuel Sportsbook)
Moneyline: Penn State -4000, Northwestern +1400 (FanDuel Sportsbook)
This is my first time this season where I am facing down a spread and a moneyline like this. Penn State are massive favorites, but as a result you really have to lay a lot on the line for what amount to a minimal payout. For a frame of reference, if you were to bet $1,000 on Penn State at FanDuel and it covered the spread, you would win all of 25 bucks.
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Penn State vs. Northwestern Betting Picks This Week
This spread is justifiable. The Nittany Lions sweated out a road win against Purdue to start the season, but since then have mowed down their opponents. Freshman running back Nicholas Singleton has lived up to the hype, averaging nine yards per carry and scoring four times in four games. Northwestern beat Nebraska over in Ireland in Week 0, but of course, now that looks a lot different. Since then, the Wildcats have lost to Duke, Southern Illinois, and Miami (OH), and Miami held them to 14 points. Penn State is 10th in SP+. Northwestern is 98th, and that's a number I expect to continue to drop.
There are a few questions to be answered here. Do I think Penn State will win? Absolutely. I have no doubt about that. Will the Nittany Lions cover the spread? I believe so, because even though the Wildcats haven't suffered a big loss yet, losing by a touchdown at home to the FCS Salukis tells you a lot. Do I want to hit Penn State with this moneyline? That's where I blanch. There is no value in betting on the Nittany Lions to win. In fact, as confident as I am in Penn State winning, I'd prefer to throw a few bucks on Northwestern and hope something weird happens. That's not a great bet, though. That brings me to the 52.5 total. I went over to check out Bill Connelly's spreadsheet of projections, and he has Penn State taking this one 39-9. Now, I don't see that score happening, but I do envision a world wherein Northwestern scores, at most, 10 points. Do the Nittany Lions drop 43 or more on them then? Possible, but not exactly likely.
Penn State vs. Northwestern Best Bet: Under 52.5 at FanDuel Sportsbook
Penn State vs. Northwestern Prediction
This is where a glibber, less imaginative writer would paraphrase Clubber Lang and say, "My prediction? Pain" and leave it at that. To dig a little deeper, though, I think the Nittany Lions win in a walk. The Wildcats' offense has looked brutal, and they rank 111th in offense on SP+. Penn State ranks seventh defensively. I think it's more likely the Wildcats get shut out than they score more than 14. Sean Clifford and the freshman running back duo get things done, but unless James Franklin goes for the jugular (which would be a weird flex against Northwestern of all schools) I think the Nittany Lions cruise to a comfortable win that isn't a stunning blowout.
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