Week 1 of the college football season is finally here, and with the Big Ten rolling out one of its biggest games of the season on Saturday, it’s time to get right into our Wisconsin-Penn State prediction. The Badgers are the odds-on and public favorite to win the Big Ten West while the Nittany Lions have the second shortest odds to win the Big Ten East, behind just Ohio State. Penn State has covered the spread in each of its last four games against Wisconsin, and only one of Penn State’s 2020 road games hit the over.
Longtime college sports writer Rob Dauster, the co-founder of The Field of 68 and The Field of 12 Network is here to break down the matchup and provide is Wisconsin-Penn State prediction for Week 1 of the college football season.
WISCONSIN-PENN STATE PREDICTION
No. 19 PENN STATE at No. 12 WISCONSIN
GAME: 12 p.m. ET, FOX
MONEYLINE: Wisconsin -230, Penn State +175
LINE: Wisconsin (-5.5)
Coming off of a 2020 season that was entirely forgettable, both Wisconsin and Penn State look to be in contention for the title “Best Big Ten team this side of Ohio State” after putting together winning streaks to close out last season.
For me, this matchup comes down to one thing: Penn State’s defense. The Nittany Lions are, historically, known as a program that will get after you on that side of the ball, and despite struggling for much of last season, they allowed 24 or fewer points in each of their last four games. I fully expect Penn State to return to form, and given the question marks that I have about Wisconsin’s running game — are you ready to trust a guy that averaged just 3.07 yards per carry for Clemson last season? — I see the Badgers have some real trouble moving the ball consistently.
I also think that it is important to note the change that Penn State made with their coaching staff, hiring Mike Yurcich as offensive coordinator. No one is going to claim that Sean Clifford had a great 2020, but with the longtime Oklahoma State coordinator taking over the offense, I expect Penn State to be much more consistent offensively.
I do believe Wisconsin should be favored in this matchup, but 5.5 points is too many points. I’ll be on the Nittany Lions.