Penn State vs. Wisconsin Pick, Prediction, Odds (September 4, 2021)

penn state wisconsin pick

Penn State and Wisconsin open their seasons with a high-stakes Big Ten clash this Saturday afternoon in Madison at Camp Randall Stadium. While Penn State looks to rebound from a 4-5 season, Wisconsin begins a campaign in which the team could conceivably be favored in all 12 of its regular season games.

This Big Ten matchup figures to be one of the best game’s on the Week 1 schedule, so let’s jump into a full breakdown with our Penn State vs. Wisconsin pick while taking a look at the odds.

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Penn State vs. Wisconsin Pick

Penn State began 2020 season ranked in the top ten but dropped its first five games before scrambling to win and cover its final four. Meanwhile, Wisconsin was favored in all seven games last season, but failed to cover either of its home contests. In fact, the Badgers’ lone win at Camp Randall in 2020 came by just three points, less than what they are spotting the Nittany Lions here.

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Both teams return nine offensive starters and most of last season’s starting defensive groups. However, while Penn State enters the season in good health, the Badgers will head toward kickoff with several key injury concerns.

Wisconsin has potential starters at running back, wide receiver, nose tackle, and offensive tackle all carrying a questionable tag, with another starting wide receiver is listed as probable. Even if each of these players suit up, the practice routine this week is surely not optimal for the hosts.

Penn State vs. Wisconsin Odds

Let’s take a look at the current Penn State vs. Wisconsin odds, courtesy of FanDuel Sportsbook:

Penn State+5.5+184O 49.5 (-114)
Wisconsin -5.5-230U 49.5 (-106)

Penn State changed offensive coordinators for the third time in three years this offseason, but this move could directly help returning quarterback Sean Clifford. Mike Yurcich was brought in from Texas, where he held the same position and worked with Sam Ehlinger after stints at Ohio State working with Justin Fields and at Oklahoma St with Mason Rudolph.

With the returning weapons Clifford has outside, Yurcich’s instruction could spur a breakthrough season.

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30-1 ODDS!

Oddsmakers opened this line with the Badgers favored by around 3.5 points and the total set near 51 points. With roughly two-thirds of the early bets coming in on Wisconsin, the line has been pushed up as high as Wisconsin +5.5.

As one might expect in a Big Ten battle between two defensive units that will likely finish among the nation’s elite, the total has dropped a bit, currently showing as low as 49.5 points.

It can be tough to wager against this Wisconsin team at Camp Randall, but if you’re going to do so, the Nittany Lions getting more than five points is probably as good a time as any to pull the trigger. After all, Penn State has owned this head-to-head series of late, winning and covering four straight and six of the last seven games.

In fact, the Nittany Lions have also won the last two games between these two away from home. They were underdogs both times, most recently in the 2016 Big Ten Championship Game in 2013 and when they won by a stunning 31-24 final as 24-point underdogs in Madison.

Betting Trends

Penn State boasts a 3-1 ATS record as underdogs of seven or less points when its previous head-to-head with the same team was a 7-12 point win (they beat Wisconsin in the last meeting 22-10 in 2018). While alone this is perhaps trivial, it is part of a couple larger trends that show Penn State as 12-9-2 ATS as dogs of seven or less since 2005 and 7-3-1 ATS in that role when they are away from Happy Valley. In other words, this is program that typically performs in this spot.

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Wisconsin won’t be helped by a Big Ten trend that shows home favorites of less than six points are just 86-99-3 ATS since 2005, with the Badgers themselves have posted just a 4-5 ATS mark. When that trend is narrowed to home teams in the AP Top 15 and road teams in the AP Top 25, the home team’s record is just 4-7 ATS.

Nittany Lions’ head coach James Franklin is a top-end motivator and should have his team ready after spring football and summer walkthroughs, part of the routine lost before last season due to COVID-19. Keeping in mind that last season didn’t kick off until October for the Big Ten, PSU is 6-1 ATS in its last seven September games.

Penn St. has also covered eight of its last 11 games as underdogs or pick ’ems, while Wisconsin failed to cover any of its last four games as favorites against Big Ten foes, all played last season.

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Penn State vs. Wisconsin Prediction

This just feels like too many points for a Badgers team to lay, given they failed to top seven points in three of their final four conference games in 2020 and are still trying to figure out their identity at running back following Jonathan Taylor’s departure.

The Badgers’ backfield combined for just one 100-yard game in nine outings last year, in fact. Minnesota took Wisconsin to overtime in Madison in the 2020 regular season outing before Wake Forest nearly doubled up the Badgers in yardage in the Mayo Bowl. It’s hard to imagine Wisconsin plugging those holes well enough in time to face a vastly underrated Nittany Lions bunch.

After all, while Wisconsin limped home in the Big Ten last fall, Penn State finished strong following its 0-5 start. Their four-game winning streak to close the season included road wins (and covers) at Rutgers and Michigan, with the win in Ann Arbor coming as underdogs.

Our Pick: Penn State +5.5 

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