Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Penn State proved to be one of the best bets in college football last season, going 11-3 against the spread on its way to a Rose Bowl appearance.
This year, though, the Nittany Lions will play against heightened expectations and larger point spreads, such as the one they’ll face when they go against Akron on Saturday afternoon at Happy Valley.
College football point spread: The Nittany Lions opened as 35-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark. (Line updates and matchup report)
College football betting pick, via OddsShark computer: 49.0-14.3 Nittany Lions (College football picks on every game)
Why the Akron Zips can cover the spread
The Zips get back 15 starters this season after going 5-7 during an injury-plagued 2016. Akron actually started 5-3 last year, but after going down to its third-string quarterback lost its last four games.
Eight starters are back on offense, including senior quarterback Thomas Woodson (60 percent completion, 18/6 touchdowns/interceptions last year) and four along the line. And seven starters are back on defense, so improvement is expected on that side of the ball.
The Zips only went 4-8 ATS last year, but they were 3-1 ATS as road dogs. And Akron actually gave Penn State a good game the last time these teams met just three seasons ago, trailing 7-3 well into the third quarter before eventually succumbing 21-3.
Why the Penn State Nittany Lions can cover the spread
Penn State, who placed sixth in the College Football Preseason Power Rankings at PredictionMachine.com, also gets back 15 starters from the team that unexpectedly won the Big Ten championship last season and went to the Rose Bowl.
The Lions started 2-2 last year then won nine games in a row, knocking off Ohio State and then Wisconsin in the conference title tilt.
Nine starters return on offense, led by a pair of Heisman candidates in QB Trace McSorley (29/8 TD/INT last year) and RB Saquon Barkley (1,496 rushing yards last year), plus four along the offensive line. And six starters are back on a defense that limited opponents to 368 yards per game last year.
Not only did the Lions cover 11 of 14 spreads last season, they went 6-2 ATS as favorites on the betting lines.
Penn State begins this season with great expectations and a top-10 ranking. But with that comes larger spreads to cover.
The biggest number the Lions faced last year was 26 points, and they haven’t been favored by 30 points in six seasons. There’s not much doubt as to the winner of this game, but the smart money at sports betting sites takes the Zips plus the points.
College football betting trends
The total has gone over in six of Penn State’s last seven games.
Penn State is 5-0 ATS in its last five games at home.
Akron is 2-4 ATS in its last six games.
All college football odds and betting trends courtesy of Bleacher Report’s official odds partner, OddsShark. All quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury and line-movement updates and the OddsShark YouTube page for picks and analysis, or download the free odds tracker app.