It’s summer, it’s hot outside, but this is a good time to get into the hot topics Penn State fans need to know about for football season this fall. This is part of our ongoing Burning Questions series, in which we will tackle the biggest issues for the Nittany Lions.
We have a list of great topics we’ll dive into in the coming days and weeks. Additionally, if fans have any Burning Questions of your own, pass them along in the comments below or on social media, and we may add your topic to our list.
Today: How do you bet Penn State’s over/under win total of 8.5?
Note: Some places have the Nittany Lions’ win total at 9. Avoid those places and find somewhere you can get it at 8.5. You don’t want to have good money on a team all season, only to push at the end if PSU wins exactly nine games. Pick a side and let it ride.
First off, let me point this out: There’s a big difference between a record prediction and a bet.
Let me explain.
Back on Jan. 25, I wrote this column with my early record prediction for PSU’s 2021 season. Click on it and see that I actually was going back and forth between 8-4 and 7-5, until Mike Yurcich was hired as the new offensive coordinator.
I have so much faith in Yurcich that I went ahead and predicted the Lions to go 9-3.
But here’s the thing about media predictions: Many of us tend to give the team we cover the benefit of the doubt — both for overall records and individual games.
Part of it is that we certainly see how good things could be in a best-case scenario. But part of it also is the human element side of things in making a pick that will prevent the fan base from the inevitable “you hate my team” type of crap. Because, hey, if picking PSU to go 9-3 instead of 8-4 saves me from having to read 100 emails about how I hate Penn State, then I’m probably going to lean that way just to save the hassle.
For the record, I don’t hate Penn State, regardless of what some of you may think. It’s your job to be a fan and my job to try and analyze things honestly.
There’s no better way to induce honesty than to put money on something.
If I were to bet on Penn State’s over/under win total of 8.5 this season, I would take the under. No, I’m not going to place that bet on a team that I cover. But if it were indeed my money on the line, I’d feel more confident in taking the under.
Why? It’s pretty simple.
A lot of things have to go right for this football team to win nine games while playing a loaded schedule. But only one thing has to go wrong for PSU to fail reach nine wins — and that’s the play of Sean Clifford.
If the quarterback has an average or subpar season, Penn State won’t win nine games. And you’d win your under 8.5 bet.
Now, if Clifford plays great in Yurcich’s system, then sure, the Lions could reach nine or even 10 wins.
Our Burning Questions series:
Penn State has a lot of weapons on offense at the receiver and running back positions, and Yurcich will put the QB in positions to cash in on those weapons. But Clifford has to stay healthy, first and foremost, because there’s so little depth at the position. If he were to miss significant time for any reason, this could end up being a 6-6 season.
Clifford also has to make the plays. Consistently. Without hurting his own team with costly turnovers, poor throws or other mistakes. If he can’t do that, then you’ll be safe with your under 8.5 bet.
Penn State’s secondary should be outstanding, but I still have questions about the defensive line and linebackers. There are a lot of new faces on the line, and while those guys have good potential, the team is having to replace Jayson Oweh and Shaka Toney, two very good defensive ends. The linebackers didn’t tackle or cover particularly well last season, and though they should be better, there’s no guarantee they’ll be significantly better.
Remember, Penn State went 4-5 last season. Sure, the Lions won their final four games, but that was against weaker competition, which has to be taken with some grain of salt.
I think this team loses at Wisconsin in the opener. I wrote about why here.
If the Lions start 0-1, then getting to nine wins obviously gets tougher. I also see losses at Iowa and at Ohio State. Win all the rest, and that’s a 9-3 record, so you’d lose your under 8.5 bet.
But I also could see this team slipping up at least one or two more times, aside from the three very difficult Big Ten road games.
So yes, I can see Penn State going 9-3. That’s what I wrote seven months ago, and I’ll stick by that from a journalism standpoint.
But if you forced me to put my own money on the line, the safer bet is take under 8.5.