As we fully enter conference play for college football in week five, a Big Ten matchup of east vs. west will go underway as the Northwestern Wildcats will go on the road to play the 11th ranked Penn State Nittany Lions. While Penn State has started the season undefeated at 4-0, Northwestern is coming into this game off a tough three game losing streak in non conference play. They’re only win came against a fellow struggling Big Ten team in Nebraska during week 0. Penn State has a bye week following this game, followed by a tough patch of games against the top Big Ten teams so getting a big win against Northwestern will be necessary so they can keep their Big Ten championship aspirations alive. Northwestern may be on a losing streak but are still 1-0 in Big Ten games and still have a chance to compete for the top team in the Big Ten West and to get things back on a winning track. Let’s get into this game’s matchup picks and predictions.
Northwestern vs. Penn State Betting Odds
The No.11 Nittany Lions are entering this game as heavy favorites over the 1-3 Wildcats. They are currently moneyline favorites at -5732 with a spread line of 26.5 points. This shouldn’t be a big surprise with how these two teams have played throughout the first four games. Penn State has been explosive on offense through the running and passing game and seem to be getting better with each game. Northwestern started off with a big win against Nebraska but fell to a lot of teams they should have beaten due to big turnovers and costly mistakes. Northwestern hasn’t lost big in any of their games, losing by ten or less in each of their last couple games. None of those have come against a top-25 Big Ten though. Penn State put a beat down on Auburn and Ohio, but only won by four against a fellow Big Ten team in Purdue. They also failed to cover against Central Michigan but still won in considerable fashion, so it’ll be interesting to see how they come out against the Wildcats.
The over/under line is currently at 52 points and will be an interesting line. Penn State’s offense has been great so far in terms of putting up points as they have put up 30 or more in each of their contests. Northwestern’s defense has been stepping up this year and has not been letting teams run away from them. They held Miami Ohio to 17 last week.
Northwestern vs. Penn State Picks & Predictions
My pick: Northwestern +26.5 (-110)
I think Penn State is going to win this game and win it without any hesitation. I do find 26.5 is just a little too much for my comfort and I’m going another week in a row of Penn State failing the cover on that line. I took Central Michigan +26.5 last week against them and this isn’t any discredit to Penn State, I just find that line a little too far fetched for Penn State. Let’s not forget they entered the season unranked and narrowly escaped a win against Purdue who is also a struggling team in the Big Ten. Pat Fiztgerald is also a great Northwestern coach who does not let his teams get blown out, even if it is a loss. I expect Penn State’s offense to have no issue scoring whether it’s Clifford through the air or Singleton/Allen in the run game, but I think the Northwestern defense could get some big stops to keep it from getting too ugly.
The over/under line is something I don’t feel as confident on. I think it could go either way but if I had to lean one way I might lean toward the under in a good old fashioned Big Ten matchup. I think both defenses could get some stops to keep touchdowns off the board.
Northwestern vs Penn State Key Matchups
Does Ryan Hilinski stack up against this Penn State defense? Check out the key matchups and mismatches for Northwestern vs Penn State below.
Ryan Hilinski vs. Penn State Defense
If Northwestern wants to stay in this game and cover, they will need a big game out of QB Ryan Hilinski. What that means is he will need to limit turnovers. Hilinski has 5 TDs and 3 INTs through his first four games and the turnovers have really been what’s killing the Wildcats early. Last game, he had no picks but the offense also had a fumble and a blocked punt so cleaning up mistakes is key. Hilinski needs to manage this team to be error-free and stay composed against a Penn State defense that has been great at taking the ball away with four INTs and five fumbles recovered throughout the early season.