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Free Pick: Penn State at Wisconsin 9/4/21
Journal Sentinel

Free Pick: Penn State at Wisconsin 9/4/21

Wow, the Big-10 have some great conference openers to start the season with and here is probably the best one. Two very similar teams going at in in the opener and someone around 3 o’clock on Saturday is going be disappointed. These two programs are similar in style and this should be a good one. Let’s see if we can find an edge for one of them after we break it down.

Quarterback: The Lions return Sean Clifford who improved as the season went on in 2020. They lost their first five games before winning their final four and that is directly related to him. He needs to continue that development and gets the added guidance from new offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich who was hired after a successful stint at Texas. Graham Mertz will enter his 2nd year as the Wisconsin QB and he is the typical Badger leader. Very steady and consistent. Advantage: Penn State

Running Backs: Wisconsin had a problem in the spring with injuries to their running backs. The leading returner is Jalen Berger who had 301 yards in the seven games that were played. Penn State has several more options and are looking to spread the carries around among several capable players. Advantage: Penn State

Receivers: The Lions return Jahan Dotson who had a breakout performance 52 catches that resulted in 8 touchdowns. Wisconsin gets Danny Davis and Kendric Pryor who had concussion problems most of last season. Between them, they have 166 career receptions for 2013 yards and 16 touchdowns. They also return All-Big Ten tight end Jake Ferguson who has 99 catches in his career. Advantage: Wisconsin

Offensive Line: Wisconsin has 4 starters back to anchor what should be a major plus in 2021. The Nittany Lions have 3 starters back including left tackle Rasheed Walker who is projected as a first rounder in 2022. Advantage: Wisconsin

Defensive Line: Penn State has one starter back and added a couple of transfers to bolster their defense upfront. Wisconsin lost both of their starting ends but return nose guard Keeanu Benton who the coaches love. Advantage: Neither

Linebackers: Wisconsin might have the best linebacking group in the Big-10. All of them return and they are the strength of a good defense. Penn State struggled at linebacker all of last season but they do have leading tackler Ellis Brooks back. Advantage: Wisconsin

Secondary: The Lions have strength in the secondary with Jaquan Brisker, Joey Porter Jr., and Tariq Castro-Fields. The Badgers play five or more backs on the field for 68% of the snaps in 2020 and they have several of those players back. Advantage: Neither

Coaching: There is very little to choose from between these two solid coaches. James Franklin has a seven-year record at Penn State of 60-28. Wisconsin coach, Paul Chryst has compiled a 56-19 mark in 6 years in Madison. Advantage: Neither

This is another very good game in what is going to be an incredible opening weekend in college football. These two teams are looking forward to what they hope will be good seasons and maybe even great. The line is Wisconsin -5.5 and I think they will win; I’m not sure they cover.]

My Pick: Penn State +5.5 The yellow caution flag is up on this one with confidence level 5 out of 10.

Aaron’s Pick: Wisconsin -5.5

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