Two undefeated foes will face off in State College on Saturday evening as Auburn becomes the first SEC school to head to Happy Valley for a game since the 2011 season. The Tigers began this season with a couple easy games at home against MAC bottom-dwellers, Akron, and FCS opponent Alabama St. Meanwhile, Penn State opened its campaign with a road conference win at ranked Wisconsin and followed it up with an impressive home display against a more competitive MAC team in Ball State.
Let’s break this game down and take a look at the betting odds before making an Auburn vs. Penn State pick and prediction.
Auburn vs. Penn State Odds
Penn State enters this contest ranked in the Top 10, laying roughly a touchdown to Auburn when this line was first released. Perhaps Auburn’s FBS-leading points per game (61.0) and points per game allowed (5.0) has been a catalyst for that point spread dipping to as low as -4.5 since. The total opened around 52.5 points and essentially held steady since.
Here is a look at the Auburn vs. Penn State odds, courtesy of Barstool Sportsbook:
|Auburn||+5 (-110)||+170||O 52.5 (-110)|
|Penn State||-5 (-110)||-200||U 52.5 (-110)|
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Auburn vs. Penn State Pick
It’s important to keep in mind that, despite a losing season in 2020, Penn State had a +102 yards per game edge against its Big Ten-only opponents. That is incredibly impressive for a sub .500 team, especially one that had lost 14 players to the transfer portal, while gaining none, and also watched several key coaches depart. The major culprit in the Nittany Lions’ poor showing was a -10 turnover differential, a wholly correctable statistic.
They have already made immense strides in that department this season, not turning the ball over yet, while simultaneously matching last season’s four interception tally through just two games.
If you subscribe to this improvement carrying weight moving forward, as we do, then this is probably your last opportunity to grab the Nittany Lions at a cheap price this season. A win and/or cover here will solidify a typically public Penn State as “back” in most bettors’ minds and that will likely be reflected in the lines of upcoming games.
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PSU gets the added advantage of playing an Auburn team that is breaking in an entriely new coaching staff, as former Boise State head coach Bryan Harsin takes over with changes at the offensive, defensive, and special teams coordinator positions. This week, the Tigers aren’t at home and aren’t playing a cupcake. As such, this task might be too much for the Tigers when Beaver Stadium is loaded to capacity for their annual White Out game.
A WHITE OUT IN HAPPY VALLEY 💥
No. 22 Auburn vs. No. 10 Penn State. This Saturday. 7:30 PM ET on ABC 🍿 pic.twitter.com/2URagoGhXH
— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) September 16, 2021
It’s hard to fully subscribe to this Auburn team solely based on their early-season results. Sure, they are ranked third in the nation defensively against the run (33.5 ypg allowed), but doing so against an FCS school and another that ranked last (and it wasn’t close) in the nation in rushing yards per game in 2019 with just 48 yards per contest doesn’t really give us an accurate assessment of a team that lost several starters, had one of its poorest recruiting offseasons in recent memory, and saw 17 players depart via the transfer portal.
Trends Heavily Favor PSU
Auburn will also be fighting against some important negative trend. The Tigers are just 3-7 ATS in their last 10 true road openers, including a 27-6 loss at Georgia last season as 7.5-point underdogs. They have lost four straight games against the spread as underdogs and are just 2-7 ATS as road dogs over the last four years (0-3 ATS in ‘20). In fact, Auburn is just 8-17 ATS when spotted points away over the last 10 seasons.
The Tigers are just 2-5 ATS in their last seven road games against above .500 home teams and have covered just one of their last six against Big Ten opponents. Auburn piled up 538 total yards of offense last week against Alabama State, but the program is just 2-6 ATS in its last eight games after gaining more than 450 total yards previously.
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In closing, Auburn is just a 7-14 cover team over the last three seasons after a straight up win. The Tigers have dropped 11 straight against the spread versus above .250 opponents off back-to-back ATS victories. And, given that Auburn defeated Penn State in the last head-to-head meeting in way back 2002 in the Capital One Bowl, it’s worth pointing out that the Tigers are just 2-19 ATS in their last 21 games against winning opponents playing with revenge and off a SU win.
Conversely, Penn State is chock full of positive trends lending to our backing here. First, head coach James Franklin is 38-17-4 ATS after a SU win with the Nittany Lions, including 30-10-2 ATS across the last five seasons in this role. His teams are 11-1 SU and 8-4 ATS in their last 12 non-conference games, going back four seasons. In fact, they are on a current 4-1 ATS run out of conference and have also covered four of their last five as home favorites and five straight as favorites anywhere.
Auburn vs. Penn State Prediction
The Nittany Lions aren’t quite back in the betting public’s good graces just yet, but they have quietly rattled off six straight covers overall, five straight covers after gaining more than 450 yards prior, and 12 straight covers off back-to-back SU and ATS wins.
They are 8-1 ATS in their last nine September games and have dropped just 10 games ATS in their last 34 against winning opposition.
Get out your finest white tee and be ready to lay this manageable number with the Nittany Lions.
Our Pick: Penn State -4.5 (FanDuel Sportsbook -106)
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