Nebraska's hopes for the Big Ten title game went bye-bye last week. Penn State isn't eligible to compete for the conference championship or even go bowling. So just what are the Cornhuskers and Nittany Lions fighting for on Saturday?
Well, bragging rights for one thing. Anytime you get two historically strong programs on the gridiron, even if they haven't developed into huge rivals as is the case for the 'Huskers and Lions, it's a big game.
Nebraska still has a shot at a 10-win campaign, which always looks good in the final rankings, and that could help Bo Pelini keep his job. Penn State will no doubt look on this matchup with the Cornhuskers and next week's contest at Wisconsin as the closest thing to bowl games on this year's slate, not to mention it's the final game for a bunch of Nittany Lion seniors who have endured some crappy times in their careers.
The 3:30 PM (ET) kickoff from Beaver Stadium is available via the Big Ten Network, PSU listed as short chalk SBR's live college football odds. The Lions opened -2.5 before early action on the Cornhuskers cut that to -1.5. Most of the early totals were sitting squarely on 50 as of Tuesday afternoon.
Nebraska Off Turnover Prone Defeat
Three turnovers in the 1st-quarter last week vs. Michigan State set the tone for Nebraska's ultimate 41-28 defeat. The Cornhuskers did an outstanding job otherwise against the Spartans' No. 1 defense, and Pelini said he will give this week's QB start to Tommy Armstrong, Jr. despite the freshman guilty as charged with three of Nebraska's five giveaways.
Nebraska (7-3 straight up, 5-5 against the spread) brings a strong ground attack into Saturday's affair, led by junior tailback Ameer Abdullah, sixth in the country running for nearly 134 yards per game. The Cornhuskers are banged up more than just Armstrong at quarterback in place of Taylor Martinez (hip). The offensive line could be missing left tackle Jeremiah Sirles (knee) who is questionable, as is tight end Jake Long (hamstring). Plus the linebacking corps is expected to be thinner with Jared Afalava questionable.
Penn State (6-4 SU, 4-6 ATS) has been stuck in a lose one, win one rut since mid-September, and if that holds true again, Saturday goes in the 'L' column. Only one of the losses came in University Park, and the Lions have won four since on this turf, covering three of those victories.
If you were thinking turnovers were a big reason for PSU's inconsistencies in 2013, pour yourself a cold-&-crispy beverage. Bill O'Brien's hair loss the past few months can be blamed on 21 total giveaways, two less than Nebraska, each ranking near the bottom of the list in turnover margin. Even in last Saturday's fairly easy 45-21 win over Purdue, Penn State spit it out twice. Purdue giving it back three times helped keep the Nittany Lions avoid upset.
'Huskers, Lions Have Potential To Develop Strong Rivalry
This is the 16th football meeting between the schools, Nebraska owning a slight 8-7 edge in the previous battles, the first of which occurred 93 years ago. It's only the third time the Cornhuskers and Nittany Lions collide as conference foes, NU winning both of those games as the favorite and the final scores pushing NCAAB odds.
The weatherman is presently listing a 30% chance of precipitation, and the rest of the forecast ain't much better. A WSW wind in the 12-15 mph range is going to make it feel much cooler than the low 40s at kickoff before dropping into the 30s during game. Double-check that before making a wager.
Do we count on this one being a clownish turnover-happy scoreboard affair as the stats are wont to suggest, or do we expect the stats to even out a bit, as they are also prone to do, with a sharply-played struggle of run-oriented offenses? I'm going in the middle of those options for my free college football pick; hell, two turnovers by each team would actually be lower than their season average, and I like the half-century mark on the total to go 'over' as a result.
My pick: Nebraska-Penn State Over 50Season record: 23-9 (+13.2); three picks pending