If Penn State is Happy Valley, then my best bet picks have been Unhappy Valley this season. Ironically, that’s where we’re going for this week’s “Fade Burke” play. The best bets are off to a 0-4 start, but variance dictates that one of them should win sometime soon! Let’s hold out hope for that! Truthfully, it can be hard to isolate just one game and pick out a winner from the group of games that you like. It’s a lot like going to a bar with a huge beer menu. You pick out the one that sounds the best and it’s not, but the others taste really good. It’s the one that you really wanted to like that stands out in your mind. I figured drawing a parallel between picking the wrong game and drinking seemed like a good idea because these picks are 0-4 and that’s when the drinking starts.
Minnesota vs. Penn State College Football Preview
Date/Time: Saturday October 1, 3:30 p.m. ET
TV: Big Ten Network
College Football Betting Odds from 5Dimes
College Football Betting Favorite: Penn State -3
This was supposed to be the year that James Franklin put it all together. Maybe he’s just not that good of a coach. Winning at Vanderbilt is hard, but, historically, winning at Penn State hasn’t been overly difficult. For Franklin, it is. The Nittany Lions are just 2-2 straight up this season and Franklin is becoming the Jeff Fisher of college coaches, as it seems like a third straight year of 7-6 mediocrity could be in the works. There won’t be many games where Penn State has a coaching edge, but this might actually be one of them. Tracy Claeys’s clock management skills make Andy Reid and Mike Smith look like they graduated from MIT with a bachelor’s in clock management. Minnesota is 3-0, but just 1-2 against the number. Penn State is 0-3-1 against closing lines.
Minnesota Golden Gophers:
There are some out there in the talent evaluation community that believe Mitch Leidner is a first-round pick. There are also some out that believe Pepsi is better than Coke and that the Dexter finale was good. To be fair, Mitch Leidner has been solid this season for the Gophers. He’s completed 64.5 percent of his tosses with a 4/1 TD/INT ratio and he’s scampered for 135 yards and three scores on 26 carries. Minnesota’s rushing attack has been very effective, averaging five yards per carry on 136 tries. Shannon Brooks made his 2016 debut and ran for 85 yards on 13 carries. Rodney Smith has racked up over five yards per carry and five rushing touchdowns. This team is very stout on the offensive line and the rushing attack has been very impressive.
On defense, the Golden Gophers have been decent this season. Minnesota has beaten Oregon State, Indiana State, and Colorado State, all at home, but those aren’t exactly offenses built to set the world on fire. Minnesota’s run defense has been impressive, allowing just 3.1 yards per carry and only two rushing touchdowns. The pass defense has been a little bit suspect, but Minnesota is right around the middle of the pack nationally. KiAnte Hardin is still sidelined, though, so the Gophers have a pretty big hold at cornerback (and also on special teams). Context is important with this pass defense. Collin Hill was a true freshman making his first road start for Colorado State. Oregon State can’t throw. Indiana State got buried early. Are the Gophers overrated on that side of the ball?
Penn State Nittany Lions:
Penn State is a lot different this year. It used to be the defense that stood out and this was once a place known as Linebacker U, but it’s all about the offense now. Trace McSorley has done fairly well in place of Christian Hackenburg was a 63.2 percent completion percentage and a 5/3 TD/INT ratio. True sophomore Saquon Barkley has run for 4.8 yards per carry and six touchdowns on his 66 carries. Five different receivers have caught at least 10 passes. Isn’t perception tricky?! You know where Penn State ranks in total yards per game? They are 112th out of 128 FBS teams with just 338.5 yards per game. There are some shiny toys and all four games have gone over the total, but the Nittany Lions offense seems very misleading thus far. Just like how I misled you!
Defensively, Forrest Gump would run for 275 yards and even Lieutenant Dan could roll for a first down or two. Penn State ranks 104th in rush defense, as they’ve given up 213.8 yards per game. They’ve allowed 4.91 yards per carry. The loss of defensive coordinator Bob Shoop has to have something to do with this. This is also a group that lost a lot at the second level to the NFL and also lost Nyeem Wartman-White for the season. Opponents are also completing 63.4 percent of passes against this group. Franklin is a defensive-minded guy, though and he won’t stand for these types of performances over and over again.
Burke’s Best Bet for Week 5: Under 56
Sides haven’t worked, so let’s try a total. This total definitely seems inflated here. Neither one of these teams pushes the tempo. Through three games, Minnesota has run 72 plays per game and Penn State has run 63. Minnesota loves to run the rock and that takes time, even if they’re getting some yards in chunks. All four Penn State games have gone over and two of them went over by a large margin. Penn State’s offense isn’t very efficient and Minnesota has a decent defense, despite the injuries. This game looks like a slap fight between two really conservative coaches willing to punt in plus territory, so points may not be in the forecast. Not to mention, this is the best defense Penn State has seen.