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Unbeaten Penn State Open as -5.5 Road Favorites at Michigan State in Week 9

Penn State football players on the sideline
Penn State stayed undefeated with a seven-point home win over Michigan in Week 8. Photo by Ben Stanfield (flickr) [CC License].
  • Penn State hasn’t won on the road against Michigan State since 2009
  • The Nittany Lions are just 4-3 against the spread this year, while the Spartans are 2-5
  • Penn State eked out a 28-21 victory over No. 16 Michigan on Saturday night

It wasn’t pretty, but Penn State held on for another resume-boosting performance on Saturday night in a 28-21 win over No. 16 Michigan to move the Nittany Lions to 7-0.

On Sunday, Penn State saw its 2020 CFP National Championship Odds shorten. The Nittany Lions also opened as -5.5 favorites against Michigan State in the NCAAF Week 9 odds.

Penn State vs. Michigan State Odds

Team Spread at BetOnline
Penn State -5.5 (-110)
Michigan State +5.5 (-110)

* Odds taken 10/20/19

Statistics and the eye test indicate the Nittany Lions are an improved team this year, plus they are still playing with College Football Playoff hopes intact. But their showing against Michigan — positive end result aside — was shaky.

While Michigan State rested on its bye week — and perhaps moved closer to the return of cornerback Shakur Brown, who has three tackles and two sacks in his lone game this year — Penn State hosted Michigan in one of its signature “White Out” games.

Penn State won, 28-21, but Michigan stormed back from a 21-point deficit, outgaining the Nittany Lions 230 yards to 80 in the second half. The Wolverines even had a genuine chance to tie the game late, but receiver Ronnie Bell dropped the ball.

So, as nice as it is to get a win over a ranked opponent, winning in this fashion isn’t a ringing endorsement for Penn State. Jumping out to a big lead and fading late is what often prevents teams from covering.

Good Teams Win, Great Teams Cover

Penn State’s spotless 7-0 record is actually not so spotless, when you look a little closer. The Nittany Lions are 4-3 against the spread, including two losses in the past three games. To be fair, though, two of their three losses ATS have come by 0.5 points (including the Michigan game, in which they were favored by 7.5).

On the other side, Michigan State has been even worse. The Spartans are 2-5 ATS, including three losses in a row. Before the bye week, Michigan State was simply dreadful in a 38-0 loss to Wisconsin.

Statistically Speaking

According to ESPN, Penn State is more efficient than Michigan State in all facets of the game. ESPN’s efficiency rating has the Nittany Lions ranked seventh overall, sixth on offense, 13th on defense, and 10th on special teams. Michigan State is 28th overall, including 43rd on offense, 27th on defense, and 58th on special teams.


Penn State also has the edge in counting stats such as total offense (439.3 yards/game to Michigan State’s 357.4 yards/game) and total defense (282.1 yards/game to Michigan State’s 314.3 yards/game).

Back to That Michigan Game for a Moment

Penn State’s shaky second-half performance against Michigan might serve bettors well, presenting a chance to lock in the early -5.5 spread. It’s quite possible that Nittany Lions players will see their lackadaisical effort in the film room this week and use that as a wake-up call.

At the same time, bettors might wake up and realize 5.5 points isn’t enough. By week’s end, the Spartans are likely to be getting at least half a point more. They simply haven’t played well recently and it’s reasonable to think that slide will continue.

Pick: Penn State -5.5 (-110)

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