College Football Picks: Penn State vs. UCF

Thursday, July 17, 2014 1:21 PM UTC

Thursday, Jul. 17, 2014 1:21 PM UTC

The Penn State Nittany Lions and UCF Knights both begin new chapters in the histories of their respective programs. They’ll open the 2014 season in Dublin, Ireland and we share our expert predictions.

<p><strong>Penn State Nittany Lions vs. UCF Knights – Game in Dublin, Ireland</strong><br /> <span style="line-height:1.6em;">Saturday, August 30th – 8:35 AM ET</span><br /> <strong style="line-height:1.6em;">NCAA Football Odds</strong><span style="line-height:1.6em;">: Penn State -4.5</span><br /> <span style="line-height:1.6em;">Dublin, </span><span style="line-height:1.6em;">a city that’s bathed in history, may be </span><span style="line-height:1.6em;">a weird place to play a US college football game, but that doesn’t take away from the importance of it for these two teams, and for </span><a href="" style="line-height:1.6em;" target="_blank" title="Free picks for top-value sports">sharp bettors eager to place valuable sports picks</a><span style="line-height:1.6em;">. What’s also worth pointing out is that with a start time of just after 8:30 in the morning on the East Coast of the United States, the game will lead into<a href="" target="_blank" title="Share your NCAAF picks with other bettors"> the rest of the college football</a> schedule on the first full Saturday of the 2014 season. This is a big deal.</span></p> <p> </p> <p><strong style="line-height:1.6em;">The Nittany Lions can win because…</strong><br /> <span style="line-height:1.6em;">They will be playing an opponent that will have to replace an excellent quarterback and an equally good running back from last season. UCF was so good on offense a year ago because of quarterback Blake Bortles and running back Storm Johnson. Bortles was a solid passer but also a very explosive and alert runner who could take off at any moment and blaze a path through a secondary. Bortles was extremely hard to contain precisely because of his speed. He gave defenses so many things to have to prepare for and worry about, but even when defenses initially contained him, Bortles had the ability to improvise and do something well in response. Without this kind of a quarterback, UCF’s offense is sure to struggle this season, and their future <a href="" target="_blank" title="Find the sports betting odds right for you">betting odds</a> will reflect this.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height:1.6em;">The Knights aren’t going to have problems only because Bortles is no longer around. The champion in the first season of the <a href="" target="_blank" title="Handicappers' AAC Power Rankings">American Athletic Conference</a> will also be without Storm Johnson, a slashing running back who was great at making defenders, usually outside linebackers and cornerbacks, miss in one-on-one situations on the perimeter. He would get past the first man on the outside and bust a big gain. He was effective as a setback who carried the ball, but he was just as much of a force when he caught swing passes out of the backfield. UCF can’t expect to score at a high rate in this game, and that should really help Penn State.</span></p> <p> </p> <p><strong>The Knights can win because…</strong><br /> <span style="line-height:1.6em;">They are going up against a team that doesn’t yet know what it has or how it will perform when it takes the field. There is a lot of optimism in Penn State because of the arrival of new head coach James Franklin, who has used his success at Vanderbilt, a woeful program for much of its history, to jump to Penn State. The Nittany Lions think they’ve found the next great coach of the program after Bill O’Brien bolted for the <a href="" target="_blank" title="NFL Picks: Houston Texans Futures Update">NFL’s Houston Texans</a>, having kept the program afloat under virtually impossible circumstances. Franklin is a great recruiter, and in future seasons, his classes are likely to make Penn State a factor in the Big Ten. Right now, though, Franklin has to deal with the short term, and the transition to a new system is something that could take time for Penn State to implement under Franklin. The newness of the coaching staff is going to mean that PSU quarterback Christian Hackenberg might need a little time at the beginning of the season to feel comfortable within Franklin’s offense. He could process this game slowly, and being in a foreign country could make his adjustment process even more pockmarked with difficulties.</span></p> <p>[/]{"component":"oddswidget", "eventId":293731, "sportsbooksIds":[43], "LineTypeId":1, "PeriodTypeId":1}[/]</p> <p><strong>Outlook &amp; NCAA Football Betting Prediction</strong><br /> <span style="line-height:1.6em;">If Penn State doesn’t turn the ball over, it should be able to win if only because it has a returning quarterback and UCF doesn’t. Yet, UCF has a solid secondary and a lot of confidence after winning the Fiesta Bowl last season. This feels like a close game, so take UCF to cover for a safe <a href="" target="_blank" title="Free college football picks &amp; betting advice">college football pick</a>. Will the Knights get a clutch score, though? They might not do enough to win the game outright.</span></p> <p><strong style="line-height:1.6em;">NCAA Football Picks: </strong>UCF +4.5 at 5Dimes</p>
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