Bet Penn State Spread vs. Michigan for College Football Picks

Darin Zank

Thursday, October 9, 2014 5:01 PM UTC

Thursday, Oct. 9, 2014 5:01 PM UTC

The situation is tense in Ann Arbor as 2-4 Michigan gets ready to host 4-1 Penn State for the first-ever night game at the Big House this Saturday. Here's our attempt to handicap this contest, with a free pick against the college football betting odds.

The Betting Odds
Most college football odds opened this game with Michigan favored by a point, the total proffered at 41, and both those numbers had held steady into Thursday.

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Lions-Wolverines Game Set-Up
Michigan is off to a 2-4 start, both SU and ATS this season, generating some heat under Coach Hoke's seat. The Wolverines opened with a 52-14 win over Appalachian State, covering as a 28-point favorite. But they then went to Notre Dame and got blanked 31-0. The Wolves then beat Miami (Ohio) 34-10, but couldn't cover at -31. And since then Michigan has lost three games in a row, to Utah 26-10; Minnesota 30-14; and last week at Rutgers 26-24, although the Wolverines managed to cover the spread as three-point road dogs.

Michigan got outgained by the Scarlet Knights 476-336; before that the Wolverines got outgained by the Gophers 373-171.

For the season Michigan quarterbacks have thrown five touchdown passes and 10 interceptions.

On the other side of this Big Ten battle Penn State is 4-1 SU and 3-2 ATS in its first five games under Coach Franklin. The Lions opened with that 26-24 victory over Central Florida in Ireland; then beat Akron 21-3, covering as 14-point favorites; then welcomed Rutgers to the Big Ten with a 13-10 victory, pushing the spread as three-point road chalk; then beat Massachusetts 48-7, covering at -27.

But two weeks ago Penn State laid an egg at home against Northwestern, losing outright 29-6 as 10-point favorites. The Lions fell behind 14-0 in the first quarter and never recovered, eventually getting outgained by the Wildcats 361-266 and outrushed 103-50.


Penn State had last week off.
Lions QB Christian Hackenberg looked good in leading Penn State to that season-opening victory over Central Florida, but he's struggled since. On the season the sophomore has completed just 58 percent of his passes, with four touchdown throws and six interceptions.


Lions-Wolverines Recent History
Last year Penn State rallied from 10 points down in the fourth quarter to tie the score, then won it in the fourth overtime 43-40. Michigan outrushed the Lions that night 149-85 and held the ball for 36 minutes, but committed four turnovers, and missed two chances to win in overtime on field goals.

Before last year these teams hadn't met since 2010.


Lions-Wolverines Betting Trends
Penn State is 4-0 both SU and ATS in the last four games in this series.

Coming into this season Michigan was 19-2 SU, 14-7 ATS at home under Coach Hoke; this year the Wolves are 2-2 SU and 1-3 at the Big House.


Injury Update
Michigan RB Derrick Green, who leads the team in rushing with 471 yards, is lost for the season after suffering a broken collarbone against Rutgers.


Lions-Wolverines Free Pick
We were fans of Coach Franklin when he worked a minor miracle at Vanderbilt, and fully expect him to do good things at Penn State. At the moment his defense is allowing just 60 yards per game on the ground. Michigan, meanwhile, is a mess; it benched QB Devin Gardner a few weeks ago, then lost replacement Shane Morris to injury, so now it's back to Gardner. Sometimes when a team is struggling the worst thing is to play at home, where the home fans can turn nasty and negative. And that could be the case Saturday night. So we'll go with Penn State, at the +1.5 points offered at Heritage, for our free college football picks on this contest.

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