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Penn State vs. Wisconsin betting odds, preview, and pick

Profile Picture: Dan Halverson

August 31st, 2021

The Big Ten kicks off its season with an excellent matchup this Saturday as the Penn State Nittany Lions travel to Madison to take on the Wisconsin Badgers. It is a top-20 matchup that will set the tone for both teams as they look to start things off with a big win against a conference foe.

Let’s take a look at the matchup and the latest betting odds below.

Sat, September 4 2021, 4:00 PM

Wisconsin

Moneyline

-230

Spread

-5.5

Total

O 50.5

Penn State

Moneyline

+175

Spread

+5.5

Total

U 50.5

Badgers need consistency from Mertz

The Badgers went 4-3 in 2020, while the Nittany Lions were just 4-5. Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz had a dazzling debut against Illinois, tossing five touchdowns before faltering the rest of the way with just four touchdowns over the final six games. Mertz was a four-star quarterback recruit and considered the most talented incoming quarterback in program history, so it is imperative that he shows better form in his second year running the offense.

His top three receivers are all back, including tight end Jake Ferguson. He also has second-year running back, Jalen Berger, and Clemson transfer Chez Mellusi in the backfield. The Wisconsin offense was just 102nd in the country in yards per play last year, though, so there is plenty of reason to question if this version of the Badgers will have enough to get things going as favorites in their first week.

Can Yurcich get Clifford back on track?

Nittany Lions starting quarterback Sean Clifford struggled in 2020, leading the team to just the 83rd-best offense in yards per play and 79th in points per play, so head coach James Franklin brought in Mike Yurcich as the new offensive coordinator to improve things for 2021.

The former OC at Texas, Yurcich has a history of working with dynamic dual-threat quarterbacks. We’ll soon see if his influence positively impacts Clifford in his third year leading Penn State's offense.

Penn State vs. Wisconsin Injury Report

Penn StateWisconsin
LB Charlie Katshir: Questionable (undisclosed)
OL Logan Brown: Questionable (head)
NT Keeanu Benton: Questionable (ankle)
OL Joe Tippmann: Questionable (arm)
RB Jalen Berger: Questionable (leg)

Penn State and Wisconsin Betting Trends

  • The Nittany Lions have won six of the last seven matchups between these teams
  • The Nittany Lions are 4-0 ATS in their last four conference games
  • The home team is 7-3 ATS in the last 10 matchups between these teams
  • The favorite is 9-2 ATS in the last 11 matchups between these teams
  • The Under is 4-0 in the Badgers’ last four conference games

Wisconsin's defense will rule the day

While neither team looks excellent on offense, early season college football usually sees defenses with an advantage and the Wisconsin defense projects to be stronger than Penn State’s. The Badgers were 14th in the country in opponent points per play in 2020, a strong advantage over Penn State’s 71st ranked defense. The Lions also had six draft picks in the 2021 NFL Draft, including several defensive stars.

Playing in Wisconsin, the Badgers should look much more sound on the defensive side of the ball and it's reasonable to expect a step up from Mertz in his sophomore season.

Score Prediction: Wisconsin 28, Penn State 20

NCAAF Pick: Wisconsin -5.5

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