Penn State vs. Wisconsin Prediction: Nittany Lions Looking for Upset Win at Camp Randall
When: Saturday, September 4 - 12:00 PM ET
Where: Camp Randall Stadium (Madison, WI)
Penn State vs. Wisconsin Point Spread: Wisconsin -5.5
Penn State vs. Wisconsin Over/Under: 50
Penn State vs. Wisconsin Prediction
The Penn State Nittany Lions started slow but finished strong last season. They'll look to ride that momentum into the start of the 2021 season as they take on the Wisconsin Badgers. Wisconsin is favored to win the Big Ten West Division this season, making this a very intriguing season opener for both teams in Big Ten conference play.
Penn State had a brutal start to the season last year, going winless in their first five games both SU and ATS. But, they followed that up by winning their last four games of the season and notching a perfect 4-0 SU and ATS record, winning all four of those games by double-digit margins.
The Nittany Lions bring back senior QB Sean Clifford who was the epitome of Penn State’s inconsistent season a year ago, as he struggled early on but improved down the stretch.
The defense, which got picked apart both on the ground and through the air in the five losses, also stepped up and got better down the stretch in their four straight late wins. The pressure is absolutely on head coach James Franklin for Penn State, who needs his team to rebound and have a good season from start to finish. There is certainly the potential for a big bounce-back season for the Nittany Lions in 2021, but I’m not sure I am ready yet to trust them to win a big game on the road, which has been an issue for them in recent seasons.
Wisconsin is absolutely loaded, entering the season with 16 starters back and turning in some of the best recruiting numbers the Badgers have had in years. Let’s not forget that Wisconsin got off to a strong start in 2020 before COVID-19 ripped through the squad and left them severely shorthanded late in the season.
This season they are much healthier and stronger. I expect it to show and it starts with QB Graham Mertz, who might be the best signal caller the Badgers program has had since Russell Wilson. Their head coach Paul Chryst has gone back to calling plays this season, which I think will be a benefit to the offense. They have four of their five offensive line starters back, an outstanding TE Jake Ferguson leading the receiving corps and a defense featuring 11 starters back. That defense is highlighted by a very solid defensive line, which is often the case for Wisconsin, and a secondary that brings back all four senior starters.
The Penn State Nittany Lions have not had the greatest track record of winning big games on the road, in conference play or otherwise, in the James Franklin era. This has often been the scene where Penn State has fallen short countless times in recent years. Despite there being good reason for optimism, based on a strong finish to last season and plenty of returning production, I am not ready to bank on Penn State going to Madison and emerging victorious. This is a game against a Wisconsin squad that I believe is the better of these two teams, albeit not by a very wide margin.
The Badgers have perhaps their best QB in years in Graham Mertz, leading a very talented offense and supported by a defense that is stout in the areas you need.
It’s worth noting Penn State QB Sean Clifford has had continuous interception problems throughout his career. Clifford threw 9 INTs in as many games played in 2020 and he is facing an experienced and strong secondary on the road could bring out some of those old bad habits. I would say the number is right around where it should be, but I would prefer the home favorite here and lay the -5.5 with Wisconsin in this Big Ten season opener for two teams with high expectations in 2021.
Penn State vs. Wisconsin Picks
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