Penn State started this year with an exciting, tight Big Ten opening win against Purdue, and then a broader victory over Ohio. Auburn however have done just the opposite, cruising by Mercer to open the season, before playing an uncomfortably tight game against San Jose State. Let’s take a look at the odds and make some picks for this intriguing interconference matchup between traditional powerhouses.
Penn State Vs. Auburn Odds
The spread on this game is pretty varied so far, as AP #22 Penn State are popping up as anywhere from a 2.5 to 4.5 point favorite, a range that makes sense for a ranked team that is perceived as soundly better, but going down South to play in a tough road environment. The points total is set around 48.5, which is right in line with the low-scoring affair I would expect between these two teams. Will the Tigers bounce back with a strong home performance, or will Penn State walk away with a statement win as they get into the heart of their schedule?
Penn State Vs. Auburn Prediction & Pick
Stability at quarterback is rarely a bad thing, especially in a sport with as much inherent roster turnover as college football. Still, when that starting QB is fairly mediocre, and is saddled with a similarly mediocre offensive skill group, it’s worth noting. This is the case with Penn State, as Sean Clifford enters his fourth season as the full-time starter, coming off his least-efficient season as measured by passer rating. Clifford will also have to adjust to life without star receiver Jahan Dotson, who now plays for the NFL’s Washington Commanders. Auburn has even less of a strength in the QB position. They replaced the less-than-stellar Bo Nix, who transferred out to Oregon, with T.J. Finley, who is also off to a tough start to the season. It’s hard to trust either of these offenses to put up a ton of points, despite Penn State’s 35-point opening week performance against what figures to be a decent Purdue defense.
The spread you’re able to get is going to be a huge factor in betting this game. This is particularly important as the margin between available spreads is the difference between less than a field goal, and more than one. Penn State is probably only worth the play at -3 or less, and I’d consider a moneyline play rather than the spread, if the value is there. I feel much more confident betting the under; both offenses have struggled over the first couple of weeks of the season- Auburn put up 24 points at home vs. San Jose, and Penn State’s offense will likely have trouble moving the ball at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Penn State Vs. Auburn Key Matchups
Check out the key matchups and mismatches for Penn State vs Auburn below.
Penn State front Seven Vs. Auburn Running Game
Many games are won and lost in the trenches, and this showdown between teams from the most traditionally physical conferences looks to be no exception. With not much more than mediocre quarterback play to rely upon, and a fine but, uninspiring wide receiver room, the Auburn running game is going to have to carry the offensive load this season. They will be led by Tank Bigsby, owner of not only an all-time great college football name, but also an impressive sophomore season a year ago. He has so far lived up to the billing as a PFF second-team preseason all-SEC running back, averaging nearly seven yards per carry, even with teams largely keying in on him.
On the other side of the line of scrimmage, Penn State relied on a “bend but don’t break” defensive approach last year, giving up significant yardage and long drives, but bucking down in the red zone. Having lost Arnold Ebiketie, an NFL-bound edge rusher who anchored the front seven a year ago, as well as starting linebackers Ellis Brooks and Brandon Smith, will the Nittany Lions have enough physicality up front to own the line of scrimmage, or will Tank march his way into the end zone at will?
Penn State Receivers Vs. Auburn Secondary
As I alluded to earlier, Penn State will be sorely missing last year’s main offensive standout in Jahan Dotson, as he has made the move to the NFL. They will seek to fill the void left by Dotson with returning players Parker Washington and KeAndre Lambert-Smith, as well as transfer Mitchell Tinsley, who put up huge numbers last season at Western Kentucky as he scored 14 times and averaged over 16 yards per catch. So while there is an adjustment to be made after losing a veritable WR1, there is also experience in that group for Penn State.
Auburn, however, has lost some of last year’s starters in their secondary, most notably corner Roger McCreary and safety Smoke Monday. Last year’s other starting safety, Zion Puckett, must be the veteran anchor to a defensive backfield that will otherwise include mostly new faces. Of course they do have two games under their belt by now, but it’ll be important to see how this unit performs against legitimate power-five conference competition.