Penn State Nittany Lions at Wisconsin Badgers Free Pick ATS
The Big Ten opens this 2021 football betting season with a bang, with six conference match-ups slated for the first week-plus, including this Penn State-Wisconsin battle Saturday afternoon in Madison. Both these steams are coming off underwhelming campaigns last year, what with all the virus panic and delays and cancellations and whatnot, but both look like excellent candidates for rebound efforts this season.
The Badgers are lined as favorites between the magic numbers for this one, which should be interesting and fun to watch. Who do we like here for our free college football betting pick?
The college football betting lines opened Wisconsin at -4.5 for this contest, with an over/under of around 52. Early betting action then dipped that total two points to 50 and the spread has risen to 5.5 at most betting shops.
Penn State-Wisconsin College Football Betting Preview
The Nittany Lions return 16 starters this season from a team that played a disappointing 4-5 last year. Penn State opened last season 0-5, a first in program history, with a controversial one-point loss to a good Indiana team, a 13-point loss to Ohio State, and bad losses (in various ways) to Maryland, Nebraska, and Iowa. The Lions then won their last four games. Although the best victory was over Michigan, which stunk, they still finished with their first losing record since 2004.
Penn State actually out-gained opponents last year by a per-game margin of 430-329 but posted a -8 turnover ratio, which especially hurt during that 0-5 start. Nine starters are back on offense for the Lions this year, including junior quarterback Sean Clifford (20 career starts), last year's leading rusher, and top two receivers and three along the offensive line. And seven starters are back on defense, only one along the line but six among the back seven. Most things went wrong for Penn State last year, and they still probably should have gone 5-4. This leads us to believe the Lions are excellent candidates for a bounce-back season this year. The Badgers, meanwhile, return 17 starters from a that played 4-3 last year and won a bowl. Wisconsin started 2-0 last year, with impressive wins over Illinois and Michigan, and reached No. 10 in the polls. But the Badgers, looking lost on offense, then scored a total of 20 points in losing consecutive games to Northwestern, Indiana, and Iowa. Wisconsin then scrambled to beat Minnesota in overtime to reach 3-3, then came from behind to beat Wake Forest in a bowl to avoid what would have been its first losing season in 20 years.
The Badgers defense was outstanding again last year, holding foes to 300 yards per game, just 96 YPG on the ground. But the Wisconsin offense, with a freshman at QB, no main ground threat, and some injuries, averaged just 346 YPG, its worst performance in a long time.
Nine starters are back on offense for the Badgers this year, including red-shirt freshman QB Graham Mertz (seven career starts), All-Big Ten tight end Jake Ferguson and three along the offensive line. And eight starters are back on defense, only one upfront but seven of the back eight.
Wisconsin is the favorite to win the Big Ten West this season, but some of that is probably based on a kind schedule. The Badgers get almost every tough conference game, including this one, at home.
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Penn State-Wisconsin Recent History
The Nittany Lions own a four-game winning streak in the series with the Badgers, going 4-0 ATS along the way. Most recently, three seasons ago, Penn State beat Wisconsin 22-10 and covered at -7.5. Trace McSorley, now with the NFL's Baltimore Ravens, quarterbacked the Lions that day against the Badgers' Jack Coan, who's now Notre Dame's starting QB.
- Get more details: Georgia vs. Clemson 9/4/21 Match-up Stats
Penn State-Wisconsin College Football Betting Trends
- The Nittany Lions are 33-13 SU, 25-19-2 ATS over their last 46 Big Ten games.
- The Badgers are 37-16 SU, 27-25-1 ATS over their last 53 Big Ten games.
- The Nittany Lions are 15-9, both SU and ATS over their last 24 true road games.
- The Badgers are 30-6 SU but only 15-20-1 ATS over their last 36 home games.
- The Nittany Lions are 7-10 ATS in their last 17 games as underdogs.
- The Badgers are 8-4 ATS in their last 12 games, favored by seven points or less.
Totals split 4-4-1 in Lions games last season, which averaged 58 total points. The Under played 4-3 in Badgers games last season, which averaged 43 points. Overs are 5-1 over the last six meetings in the series between these two teams, stretching back to 2008, as the games have played somewhat high-scoring against relatively low over/unders.
Penn State at Wisconsin Prediction ATS 9/4/21
Penn State went through a lost season last year in part due to some lousy football luck. But that kind of luck tends to trend back toward normal over the course of the following season or two. Plus, with a bunch of returning talent, we expect the PSU to bounce back and maybe win ten games this year (their over/under is nine). Also, Wisconsin is a little banged up, with several projected starters listed as questionable. We like the Lions here, and they might win this game outright.