Buffalo Bulls at Penn State Nittany Lions (-20.5, 49.5 o/u)
Other than possibly Stanford, no team had a worse Week 1 than the Penn State Nittany Lions (0-1, 0-0 Home). (Week 1 went so poorly, in fact, that the team captains actually buried the film.)
The team was a nearly touchdown favorite against Temple, a school better known for its basketball program. But the Nittany’s offensive line was shredded constantly by the Owl pass rush and Christian Hackenberg and the offense could only muster ten points, ultimately falling 27-10. Penn State will hope to rebound this weekend when they host the Buffalo Bulls (1-0, 0-0 Away) at Beaver Stadium (12:00 PM Eastern).
Hackenberg, a potential no. 1-overall NFL draft pick, was sacked a total of ten times in Week 1. Even when he stayed on his feet, the pressure forced him into hurried throws and he posted a woeful stat line (11 of 25 for 103 yards and one pick with a QBR of 3.2). Thanks to -59 yards on the ten sacks, the team only had 180 total yards of offense for the game.
In reality, this is the same old story for Penn State. After a very encouraging freshman season, Hackenberg was crushed in 2014 behind a porous offensive line, taking 44 sacks and throwing 15 picks (to just 12 TDs).
Better things were expected coming into 2015, the team’s second season under head coach James Franklin. But the Temple game demonstrated that nothing has changed on the O-line.
“Obviously the sacks were a big storyline,” Franklin said in his press conference on Tuesday. “We’re evaluating everything. I think we can move the pocket more, I think we can do better there. When we gave up that first sack, you saw a change on our sideline.”
Buffalo, meanwhile, looked good in its opener, thrashing the Albany Great Danes 51-14 while covering the spread as 13.5-point favorites.
The Bulls offense outgained Albany 467 to 269 and took advantage of three turnovers. Buffalo was fairly balanced on offense with 255 passing yards and 212 more on the ground. Senior QB Joe Licata led the team with 246 yards and two scores.
The Bulls went just 5-6 (3-4 MAC) in 2014, but won their final two games of the season and seem to be trending upward after Week 1.
These two programs last met in 2007. Penn State picked up a 45-24, but Buffalo covered as massive 33.5-point underdogs.
Penn State can’t possibly look worse than they did against Temple, especially their offensive line, but keep in mind the Nittany Lions are 1-4-1 ATS in their last six games as a favorite, while the Bulls are 9-3 ATS in their last 12 following an SU win and 4-1 ATS in their last five against the Big Ten.
Penn State should have better luck, straight-up, at home. But don’t expect the numerous issues on the offensive line to disappear overnight. Buffalo plus the points (+20.5) looks like the better ATS value.
Pick: Buffalo +20.5.
(Photo credit: Ben Stanfield (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode]. Photo has been cropped.)