Well sports fans, we have FINALLY made it to Week 1 in college football. Sure, there were a few Week 0 games last weekend but those were just an appetizer. Week 1, with its full slate of games, is the main course, especially for seasoned sports bettors!
Today, we’ll break down this exciting Big 10 matchup between Penn State and Wisconsin. Both of these legendary programs are ranked in the Top 20 to start the 2021 season so there’s a ton at stake in this Week 1 matchup.
Kickoff is set for 12 EST in Madison, Wisconsin, at Camp Randall Stadium. Let’s dig into each team’s offense and defense! Also, we’ll show you which team we’re betting on in this Big 10 showdown!
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Best Available Odds for Penn State @ Wisconsin
The bookmakers are expecting this game to be tightly contested, as the Badgers are favored by five to five and a half points at most shops. Most of the early action has been on Wisconsin, which has pushed the line from the opener of -4 to -5.5.
Before getting your action down on this game, be sure to check out our free College Football Live Odds Tool. We created this tool to help our readers get the best available odds on all of their wagers. Here’s a live look at the best point spread and total for Penn State @ Wisconsin.
Best Odds for Wisconsin Badgers vs. Penn State Nittany Lions
What to Expect from the Penn State Offense in Week 1
The Nittany Lions had a lackluster 2020 campaign by posting a disappointing record of 4-5. Penn State fans were irate after their team opened the season with five straight losses (including awful performances against Maryland and Nebraska). James Franklin must have finally gotten the team’s attention though since they ended the season with four straight victories.
Redshirt senior Sean Clifford will once again be the starting QB for Penn State in 2021. The 6-2 220 pounder had an up and down 2020 season with 16 touchdown passes and 9 interceptions. If Clifford is a little more careful with the football, this offense could show a ton of improvement this season.
Keyvone Lee put up some respectable numbers (4.9 yards per carry and 4 touchdowns LY) at RB for Penn State in 2020. However, Noah Cain is expected to win the starting tailback job to start 2021. Cain only played in one game last year but scored eight rushing touchdowns in 2019. Expect Franklin to call plenty of running plays to the left in Week 1, as big left tackle Rasheed Walker is one of the best in the Big 10.
Penn State’s receiving corps returns the majority of its production in 2021. Senior Jahan Dotson could be a first-round NFL Draft pick after leading the team in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns a year ago. Expect Clifford to try and test the Badgers’ secondary with a few deep play-action passes to both Dotson and Parker Washington (489 receiving yards and six touchdowns LY).
What to Expect from the Wisconsin Defense in Week 1
The Badgers have some talented defensive players but the main concern is the lack of experience on the defensive line. Last year’s D-Line had a hard time getting any pressure on opposing QBs and that could be an issue this year as well. Nick Herbig has shown the ability to stop the run as evidenced by his six tackles for loss in 2020.
Wisconsin’s linebacking corps has a load of experience. Redshirt senior Jack Sanborn led the team in tackles in 2020 with 52. Leo Chenal led the team in sacks a year ago with three. Since the D-Line is so inexperienced, look for the Badgers to blitz some of their star linebackers on a regular basis against the Nittany Lions.
What to Expect from the Wisconsin Offense in Week 1
Redshirt sophomore Graham Mertz will return as the starting QB for Wisconsin this year. Mertz isn’t flashy but he is a decent game manager that makes good decisions with the football. The key here is if Mertz is able to burn Penn State’s secondary with any deep passes.
It was a little odd seeing Wisconsin play last year with no real bell cow at RB. That changes this season as Chez Mellusi transfers in from Clemson. The 5-11 200 pounder averaged six yards per carry and scored seven total touchdowns over his two years of limited playing time with Clemson. Look for Paul Chryst to pound the rock behind future NFL right tackle Logan Bruss.
The strength of the Badgers’ offense is their receivers, as three of them are redshirt seniors who have NFL potential. Kendric Pryor and Danny Davis both underachieved in 2020 but we expect better numbers from them in 2021. Look for Mertz to try to hook up with Pryor, Davis, and Jake Ferguson, a big tight end who led the team in catches, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns a year ago.
What to Expect from the Penn State Defense in Week 1
Defensive tackle PJ Mustipher is Penn State’s most experienced defensive lineman. Mustipher played in all nine games a year ago and racked up 35 tackles and a sack. Brandon Smith is a beast against the run, as he had eight tackles for loss in 2020.
Smith isn’t the only talented linebacker on the roster. Ellis Brooks and Jesse Luketa are both tackling machines who could both be playing on Sundays next year.
The strength of this Nittany Lions’ team may be their secondary. Tariq Castro-Fields is a lockdown corner who should be able to contain Pryor or Davis in the passing game. Strong safety Jaquan Brisker also has NFL early-round potential. With this much talent in the Penn State secondary, it could be hard for Mertz to get much traction in the passing game.
Our Pick: Penn State +5.5
We hate betting against Wisconsin, especially at home where they rarely lose. However, our power ratings make this line at only 3 so there’s a good bit of value on the Nittany Lions. After an awful start to last season, expect Franklin to have his team focused and ready to pull the road upset! Take the points with the Nittany Lions!