In this very weird college football season, we all say hello to the Big Ten, which begins play this weekend after missing the first two months due to conference-wide COVID-19 restrictions. The Penn State Nittany Lions jump into the season considered to be one of the best teams in the conference, and country, grabbing a No. 9 national ranking without even playing a game. They travel to Memorial Stadium in Bloomington to face the Indiana Hoosiers as 6.5 point favorites. The Nittany Lions have dominated the rivalry, winning the last six, but the Hoosiers covered in the last two losses.
Good times in Happy ValleyPenn State comes into this abbreviated season as one of the favorites to win the Big Ten. Last year they finished 11-2 overall and 7-2 in the conference, finishing second in the east Division to Ohio State. They beat Memphis in the Cotton Bowl and finished with a ranking of No. 9. that No. 9 ranking is where they open the season at Indiana, So what will the 2020 Nittany Lions look like?
With 12 returning starters, hopes are high in Happy Valley for an even better year under coach James Franklin. The offense that put up 36 points per game last year and over 400 total yards per contest has most of its key pieces back, including quarterback Sean Clifford. While they miss wide receiver KJ Hamler, now with the Broncos, they have back tight end Pet Freiermuth and running back Journey Brown, who had a breakout year with 890 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns last year. Running will be a central focus with a veteran offensive line.
Indiana has potent offense
The Indiana face a tough test in week one of their shortened college football season, but they come in looking to improve on a very good 2019 season. They finished 8-5 overall and 5-4 in the Big Ten, giving them their most wins since the 1990s. The key for the Hoosiers will be quarterback Michael Penix, who had a great freshman season , despite missing almost half the year with injuries. Penix had a completion percentage of almost 69% with 10 touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 157. Veteran running back Stevie Scott also returns, closing in on 2,000 career yards. Also, Penix gets to keep his favorite target from a year ago, Whop Philyor, who was 2nd team all Big ten last year. In addition, tight end Peyton Hendershot is back following a junior year where he had 52 catches for 622 yards.
Michael Penix Jr. Looks to Spread the Wealth for Indiana Football https://t.co/MfI49pKrAn— Felix H. Sharpe II (@sharpereview) October 19, 2020
The offense averaged about 32 points per game last year and has a chance to be really good again this year. The defense was solid last year, allowing about 24 points per game. In a loss to Penn State, they gave up 34 points in a 34-27 loss, but they were 15 point underdogs so they easily covered. Key returning players on defense include defensive lineman Jerome Johnson and cornerback Tiawan Mullen, who was an all-American last year and the Big ten's Defensive newcomer of the year.
Stats & Trends
- Nittany Lions are 0-4 ATS in their last 4 games as a favorite of 10.5 or greater.
- Nittany Lions are 1-3-1 ATS in their last 5 meetings in Indiana.
- Hoosiers are 6-0 ATS in their last 6 games as a home favorite.
- Hoosiers are 5-0 ATS in their last 5 games as a home favorite of 10.5 or greater.
- Home team is 6-2-1 ATS in their last 9 meetings.
Take the Hoosiers at home getting the points. You need to look back no further than last year when Penn State only beat Indiana by 7 points at home. Penix didn't play in that game for Indiana, and he's a difference maker. I think Indiana is going to surprise a lot of teams this year and could be a top 25 team. Penn State will be Penn State, led by their defense and ground and pound attack, but Indiana proved last year that they can score on Penn State's defense and will again this year. Penn State has not been good in Indiana against the spread, so go with the Hoosiers here getting the points.