College Game Day is coming to Happy Valley as No. 10 Penn State plays host to 22nd-ranked Auburn in a blockbuster Big Ten vs SEC matchup.
This will be a tough road test for Auburn, which has yet to face a Power Five opponent. College football odds currently list Penn State as a six-point favorite.
Game: Auburn (2-0) at Penn State (2-0)
Location: Beaver Stadium
Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Head to Head
These powerhouses have only met twice and have split their meetings. Auburn defeated Penn State 13-9 in the 2003 Capital One Bowl. Seven years earlier to the day, Penn State blew out Auburn 43-14 in the Outback Bowl.
Next game: vs Georgia State
Auburn started off slowly vs FCS Alabama State. The Tigers led just 6-0 after the first quarter and it almost looked like it’d be a ballgame. Over the next three quarters, Auburn scored 56 unanswered points en route to a 62-0 drubbing.
The Tigers covered the incredibly wide 49½-point spread with ease and moved to 2-0 against the spread and straight up. Auburn hit the over on the over/under 60-point total without needing any help.
Most impressively, Auburn picked up 364 yards on the ground on a whopping 9.3 yards per carry. The Auburn defense posted its first shutout since a 52-0 win vs Samford in 2019.
Freshman wide receiver Tar’varish Dawson has yet to suit up and his status vs Penn State is questionable. Meanwhile, defensive tackle Jeremiah Wright was tipped for a big season before tearing his ACL in August.
Penn State Nittany Lions
Next game: vs Villanova
Penn State was too much for Ball State to handle as the Nittany Lions defeated the Cardinals 44-13. Penn State comfortably covered the 22½-point spread and the total narrowly went under the 58½-point line.
The Nittany Lions ended Ball State’s eight-game winning streak and picked off quarterback Drew Plitt twice. Penn State QB Sean Clifford put together a steady 21-of-29 performance with 230 yards and a touchdown. Clifford also added 66 yards and a TD on the ground. Wide receiver Jahan Dotson once again had a game high in receiving yards with 65 and caught a touchdown pass.
Defensive back Keaton Ellis sat out vs Ball State with an undisclosed injury and it is unclear whether he will suit up vs Auburn. Running back John Lovett is also questionable and hasn’t featured in a game yet.
Betting on the Game
Penn State has covered the spread in both of its games with ease. After starting last season 0-5, there were a lot of questions about the Nittany Lions’ ability to be an elite football team this year. However, Penn State has silenced the doubters and been one of the best college football picks.
The Nittany Lions have been elite defensively, allowing just 23 points through two games against a pair of decent teams in Wisconsin and Ball State. A Temple transfer, defensive end Arnold Ebiketie, has made an instant impact by recording 11 tackles and three for a loss. The secondary has also been excellent, recording four interceptions and allowing just five yards per pass attempt.
Penn State’s ability to take care of the ball has been just as important. The Nittany Lions haven’t given the ball away yet and sport a plus-5 turnover margin through two games. Clifford has been a steady presence under center and completed 63 percent of his throws.
Coach James Franklin’s team is on a six game SU and ATS winning streak dating to last season and shows no signs of letting up. During that streak, the Nittany Lions have covered the spread by an average margin of 8.9 points.
Auburn has covered the spread in both of its games. However, playing Alabama State and Akron at home is a lot different than heading into Happy Valley and playing in front of over 100,000 opposing fans. Auburn’s strength of schedule ranks 128th out of 130 FBS teams through two games.
The last time Auburn faced a Big Ten team was on New Year’s Day in the Citrus Bowl vs Northwestern. The Tigers came in as four-point underdogs but lost by 16. A year before that, Auburn lost to Minnesota 31-24 in the Outback Bowl, despite coming in as seven-point favorites.
In SEC play last year, the Tigers managed a 5-5 ATS record and are 2-4 ATS in their last six road or neutral-site games. Despite the two blowouts, I’m not exactly confident in Auburn’s ability to come in on the road and defeat a Penn State team that hasn’t been giving up much defensively. I think the spread will move in the Nittany Lions’ favor as the week goes on and I think Penn State has the ability to comfortably defeat this untested Auburn team.
Penn State’s moneyline is listed at -230 for betting online, which corresponds to an implied 69.7 percent probability of victory. The Nittany Lions are on a six-game winning streak dating to last year.
Auburn, at +190, has an implied 34.5 percent chance of victory and the Tigers have lost two consecutive games to Big Ten schools. Auburn is 1-4 in its last five games vs ranked opponents and it’ll be a huge challenge to win on the road at Penn State. The Nittany Lions should win but the moneyline doesn’t necessarily present great value.
The sportsbook currently lists the point total at O/U 52½. Both of Penn State’s games have gone under the total while Auburn’s have gone over.
Auburn has been explosive on offense as quarterback Bo Nix has been impressive. The Junior signal-caller has completed 74.4 percent of his passes and amassed 383 yards and five touchdowns through two games. The Tigers’ backfield tandem of Tank Bigsby and Jaquez Hunter has also turned heads with 498 yards and four TDs between them.
However, The Nittany Lions have been excellent against the run, allowing just 2.9 yards per carry. Auburn has allowed an alarming 73.2 completion percentage on pass plays and forced just one turnover, but it has been great vs the run. I expect both Auburn and Penn State to find some success on offense and the total to go over, but Penn State’s playmaking ability on defense and timely stops could be the difference.