Penn State Football Favored in 11 Contests by SP+ Preseason Rankings

By Andrew Rubin on February 13, 2020 at 1:52 pm
Dec 28, 2019; Arlington, Texas, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Sean Clifford (14) looks to pass in the second quarter against the Memphis Tigers at AT&T Stadium.
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

As it is only mid-February, this is being written 205 days before Penn State will take the field for the first time. But since it is never too early to talk about college football, the first round of formula derived predictions for the 2020 season has been posted.

Bill Connelly of ESPN put out his initial SP+ rankings and the Nittany Lions checked in at No. 5 with the 11th rated offense and defense.

With these numbers, we can dig into the Nittany Lions' opponents and predict the expected margin of victory like Connelly will do in the fall, but without the win percentage which he also includes. When posting his weekly predictions he gives the home team 2.5 points and we did the same here. Keep in mind the SP+ rankings will be updated each Sunday throughout the season so what is being written in February will hold mostly true for early season games but these points spreads can and will be off by varying amounts later in the year.

  • vs. Kent State - PSU by 39.2 
  • at. Virginia Tech - PSU by 11.1 
  • vs. San Jose State - PSU by 36.5 
  • vs. Northwestern - PSU by 22.5
  • at. Michigan - PSU by 5.2 
  • vs. Iowa - PSU by 15.3 
  • vs. Ohio State - OSU by 3.4 
  • at. Indiana - PSU by 9.7 
  • at. Nebraska - PSU by 8.8 
  • vs. Michigan State - PSU by 21.7
  • vs. Maryland - PSU by 27.7 
  • at. Rutgers - PSU by 29.7 

As you can see the Nittany Lions are currently favored in 11 games according to SP+, which if I’m going to speculate will also be the case when Vegas eventually drops their offseason game of the year spreads. Even with the Ohio State matchup taking place in Beaver Stadium, in what will likely be a primetime (please stay away Big Noon) white out the Nittany Lions are going to be underdogs unless the Buckeyes turn out to not be clear national title contenders, as expected.

As for Michigan, the Nittany Lions may end up as underdogs in that matchup as well. But with the Wolverines losing a lot of experience from a team that was worse than Penn State a year ago, expect James Franklin's to be favored in any preseason spreads.

As for any other matchup, it would take a disaster of a season for Penn State or a major surprise from someone else to see the Nittany Lions as the underdog by the time kickoff rolls around.

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