Penn State Nittany Lions College Football Betting
James Franklin hasn’t had the best season in Happy Valley, but it looks like Penn State is going to go out with a bang. The Nittany Lions have won three straight games after an 0-5 start, and they could possibly finish the season at .500 if they elect to go to a bowl game. It’s a lot better than other programs in the Big Ten, including Illinois, who fired Lovie Smith on Sunday after five seasons. The Fighting Illini will finish out the season under interim coach Rod Smith. Penn State will host Illinois in both teams’ regular season finale on Saturday, December 19, at 5:30 p.m. ET on FS1.
Penn State Nittany Lions Weekly Odds
Penn State Nittany Lions -14.5
Illinois Fighting Illini +14.5
Penn State Nittany Lions Weekly Matchup
The Fighting Illini are 2-5 this year. Their two wins came against Rutgers and Nebraska, but they were competitive for a little bit against Iowa and Northwestern over the last two weeks. Illinois has not had good play from the quarterback position this year. Brandon Peters and Isaiah Williams are both really struggling to complete passes, and a total of four different signal callers have been used. The Illini quarterbacks have combined to complete just 48.3 percent of their passes for 6.4 YPA with eight touchdowns and three interceptions.
Fortunately, the run game has been solid for Illinois. The top four rushers are all averaging at least 5.5 YPC. Chase Brown leads the way with 510 yards and two touchdowns, while Mike Epstein has 360 yards and four scores. Williams and Peters are both run threats, and that has helped in this regard.
Penn State’s defense hasn’t been great, but it hasn’t been terrible either this year. The Nittany Lions are ranked 25th in defensive SP+, as they are allowing 28.5 PPG and 335.1 YPG. The front seven has been sturdy, really hurting Illinois’ chances of finding success on the ground.
Sean Clifford has been the Nittany Lions’ top quarterback for most of the season. He is completing just 59.4 percent of his passes for 1,598 yards (7.0 YPA) with 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Clifford’s turnover problems early in the season led to Franklin turning to Will Levis for a short time, but the offense didn’t get any better with Levis under center.
The run game hasn’t been great this year. However, Penn State may have found its running back of the future in freshman Keyvone Lee. Lee was fourth on the depth chart entering the 2020 season, but he is now the leading rusher for the Nittany Lions with 353 yards (5.0 YPC) and three touchdowns.
Tight end Pat Freiermuth’s season-ending surgery led to Penn State relying almost exclusively on Jahan Dotson and Parker Washington in the passing game. Dotson has been one of the Big Ten’s best receivers with 46 receptions for 695 yards and six touchdowns, while Washington has 35 catches for 473 yards and six scores.
Illinois doesn’t have a great defense. The Fighting Illini are allowing 31.9 PPG and 451.1 YPG, as the front seven is allowing a whopping 5.2 YPC and 226.9 YPG on the ground.
Penn State Nittany Lions Weekly Recap
The Nittany Lions overcame a 21-10 halftime deficit to win their third straight game last week. Penn State initially had a hard time with Michigan State, but all three phases of the game kicked into action in the second half. Sean Clifford threw two touchdown passes, the defense only allowed three points after halftime, and Jahan Dotson returned a punt 81 yards for a touchdown to get the cover.
Penn State allowed Payton Thorne to throw for 325 yards and three touchdowns in his first start, while its offense had some issues. The Nittany Lions averaged under 3.0 YPC, but Clifford was able to find Dotson and Parker Washington often in the second half.
2020 Penn State Nittany Lions Schedule
||L 35-36 (OT)
||vs. Ohio State
||vs. Michigan State
NCAA Football Teams
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