West Virginia vs. Penn State kicks off this Saturday at 7:30pm EST in Happy Valley as a home game for the Nittany Lions. Penn State is currently a -20.5 favorite with -1250 odds on the moneyline. The total is set at 50.5, implying a 35-15 Penn State victory. Read on for more West Virginia vs. Penn State best bets and predictions as the Mountaineers may struggle to put up points on the board.
West Virginia Vs. Penn State Prediction & Best Bet
In a division that is normally dominated by Michigan and Ohio State, the Nittany Lions are making a serious case as this year’s representative in the Big Ten championship heading into the season. We normally highlight teams with great Returning Production early in the year, but Penn State is making a splash by drastically improving their play at quarterback.
Gone are the days of Sean Clifford under center, a middling quarterback who ran the show at Penn State for the past few years. It’s now the Drew Allar show as he takes the reins as their leader, giving the Nittany Lions an instant boost in downfield production and a more stable presence in the pass attack.
While Clifford was serviceable, he had a tendency to turn into a pumpkin against stout defenses and would fold under a collapsing pocket. Drew Allar already looks the part as a next level talent, possessing an elite ability to put the ball on a rope in deep passing situations. Penn State’s Pass Play Explosiveness is poised to drastically improve from last year’s 60th ranked placement.
As for the defense, it’s business as usual as Penn State is loaded at all three levels. They bring back a respectable amount of production back as well as elite starting talent. They were top-10 in Def Pass Success Rate, fifth in Def Pass PPA, 38th in Def Pass Explosiveness, and first in Def Havoc.
With their continuity, they are expected to maintain that level of success from the get-go. This will give West Virginia’s new starting quarterback Garrett Greene fits early in the season as he already struggles with turnover issues.
West Virginia Vs. Penn State Odds
With continuity on the defensive front and an elite quarterback making his start, oddsmakers believe that the Nittany Lions will comfortably win by opening them as a -20.5 favorite. Bettors believe elsewise, backing the Mountaineers down to +20 as of writing. The movement is curious, yet understandable as Penn State is only hype until they prove it on the field.
As for the total, points are expected to be scored at a moderate pace as oddsmakers opened the number at 53.5. That number has since come crashing down, getting bet down to as low as 50.5 as of writing. Penn State’s defense will be a nightmare to deal with in the passing department yet are susceptible to getting pushed around on the ground. Should WVU opt into the ground game, this drains time off the clock and limits the number of possessions on both ends.
West Virginia Vs. Penn State Key Matchups
Can Garrett Greene figure it out against Penn State’s secondary? How does Penn State limit the rush attack as an average unit at best in rush defense?
Garrett Greene vs Penn State Secondary
A major handicap to West Virginia’s team total under is that I am a non-believer in Garrett Greene. Especially against an elite Penn State secondary, a unit that finished first in pass breakups last season.
Garrett Greene doing what he does best. Plan on seeing this a bunch in 2023! pic.twitter.com/mlTqCNTB3t
— EERSNATION (@EERSNATION) August 20, 2023
Assuming Penn State’s secondary remains true to form, Greene will be forced into scrambling situations as a dual threat quarterback. When on the run his quality of passes will drop as well as drain more time off the clock should he choose to run instead. Both factors towards the under.
Nittany Lions Rush Defense
While Penn State excelled at most areas of the defense, they shockingly struggled at limiting the run. They ranked 64th in Def Rush Success Rate and 80th in Def Rush Explosiveness. A key matchup heading into this contest as West Virginia was slightly above average in rush metrics across the board.
What’s interesting this time around is that the Mountaineers are now starting their backup running back after the departure of Tony Mathis Jr, starting CJ Donaldson Jr who finished last year running for 526 yards and eight rushing touchdowns.
Assuming Penn State cleans up the open field tackling in the second unit and plugs the gaps against the run, WVU will struggle mightily in moving the ball down the field.