Auburn vs Penn State Prediction, Against the Spread Pick and Latest Odds
Auburn Tigers vs. Penn State Nittany Lions
Spread: Penn State -6.5
Game time: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC
Auburn vs Penn State Prediction
Two weeks into the 2021 season, there’s a ton we haven’t had a chance to learn yet about both Auburn and Penn State. The Tigers have played what amount to two controlled scrimmages, first against Akron and then Alabama State. They won those games by a combined score of 122-10, which was nice to see but not indicative of anything much, given that those results came against one of the worst teams in the FBS and an FCS team. On the other hand, Penn State had a really nice Week 1 win at Wisconsin, but it was hard to tell how much of that was the result of the Badgers’ repeated red zone failures, how much was the result of Wisconsin QB Graham Mertz simply not being good, and how much was Penn State’s doing. The Nittany Lions’ other game was an uneventful cruise past the MAC’s Ball State on Saturday.
It starts with Penn State’s offense, which seems limited. Sean Clifford is now in his third year atop the QB depth chart, and he has yet to show any sign that he can do anything more than keep an offense on schedule at a competent level. There’s a lot to be said for that, of course, but for Penn State, it’s different than having a passer who can break open a game in his own right. Clifford has filled the proverbial “game manager” role well enough through two weeks. Against Wisconsin, he had a tidy 247 yards, a touchdown, and no interceptions, but he posted zero expected points added per pass play –– an advanced stat that measures how efficient an offense is when down, distance, and field position are brought into account. Penn State’s running game also hasn’t shown out yet, despite having one of the Big Ten’s best running backs in Noah Cain and a couple of backups (Devyn Ford, Keyvone Lee) who look capable.
How good is the Auburn defense that unit will work against? Again, we’re constrained by what we’ve seen so far, but I think the Tigers might prove to be pretty good on this side of the ball. Roger McCreary is an athletic outside cornerback who should be up to the task of guarding Penn State’s most dangerous player, receiver Jahan Dotson. The Tigers’ defensive line and linebacker groups always have some of the best players in the SEC, and that appears to still be true this year. Linebackers Owen Pappoe and Zakoby McClain are great, and the defensive line is mostly a collection of blue-chip talent that can get push against non-awesome offensive lines.
It seems reasonable enough that Auburn’s defense and Penn State’s offense could stalemate. That would put a lot on Auburn QB Bo Nix, who is a bit like Clifford in that he’s mostly fine but rarely goes out of his way to win a game for his team. In Nix’s case, I’m encouraged that he has help from one of the country’s best running backs, Tank Bigsby, and a legitimate SEC offensive line that should give him decent room to operate –– even against a very tough PSU defense.
You can probably derive that I don’t think there will be a ton of scoring here. I also don’t think there’s a significant gap between the two teams. It’s hard to figure a good reason that one would be nearly a full touchdown favorite over the other, and so I feel most comfortable taking the points and putting a wager on Auburn. If the line pushes north of a touchdown, it gets all the more enticing to ride with the visitors as they head into State College.
Auburn vs Penn State Against the Spread Pick
Pick: Auburn +6.5 @ -110