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Minnesota Golden Gophers vs. Penn State Nittany Lions Preview and Pick

Minnesota Golden Gophers (4-2 SU, 3-3 ATS)  vs.  No. 12 Penn State Nittany Lions (5-1 SU, 2-4ATS), Saturday, October 17th, 3:30 p.m. Eastern, Beaver Stadium, University Park, PA;  TV: ABC
by Oracle of

Point Spread: Minnesota +14.5/Penn State -14.5
Over/Under: N/A

On paper, the game between the Penn State Nittany Lions and Minnesota Golden Gophers this Saturday seems to be one-sided.

The Nittany Lions are ranked 12th in the nation, have a better straight up record than Minnesota, play at Beaver Stadium where they’ve won four games this year, and last but not least, are huge 14.5-point favorites according to some online sportsbooks.

The Golden Gophers, though, may have something to say about that.

They’re 4-2 straight up on the year, with their losses coming to a couple of tough opponents including a ranked Wisconsin squad and a tough California Bears team. Although their wins haven’t come against very good programs, they’ve shown enough to get some respect.

They head into Beaver Stadium as dogs of +14.5, but that line has already moved big by going to +16.5 at some sportsbooks.

The over/under isn’t available at the time of this publication and will be added in on Thursday.

It’s an interesting line, considering Minnesota has lost their two games by an average of just 8.5 points. On top of that, Penn State lost to Iowa a couple weeks back and didn’t play all that well against a bad Illinois team just two weeks ago.

The Nittany Lions are coming off their best performance of the year, albeit a 52-3 win against an Eastern Illinois team where they were favored by 47.5 points.

How quarterback Daryll Clark goes is how Penn State goes. The senior quarterback has been a little inconsistent, but is still the leader of this team. He’s thrown for 1,367 yards and 12 touchdowns while rushing for three more scores.

He’s also coming off one of his best performances of the year by going 13-for-19, for 234 yards and four total touchdowns while not playing much in the second half.

But when Minnesota watches game film, it won’t necessarily be the offense they’ll be worried about.

Penn State allows just 10.2 points per game – 6th in the nation. Meanwhile, giving up 255 yards per game is good enough for 10th in the country. Eastern Illinois mustered just 207 total yards and turned it over twice against the pesky Penn State defense last weekend.

Minnesota is actually ahead of Penn State in the Big Ten standings by a half a game. Really, they’re doing it with a rather average team on both sides of the ball. In their 35-20 win last week against Purdue, they were outgained by over 100 yards, lost in time of possession, and threw two interceptions.

It seems as though the Golden Gophers find a different way to win each week. If it’s not quarterback Adam Weber leading the way, it’s wideout Eric Decker getting the ball someway, somehow. When it’s not either one of them, the Gophers rely on a balanced ground game.

Such was the case last week. With a bunch of stats not on their side against the Boilermakers, the one that was included a grand total of  244 rushing yards. Out of those rushing yards, 176 came from the trio of Kevin Whaley (eight carries, 79 yards), Duane Bennett (9 carries, 53 yards), and DeLeon Eskridge (12 carries, 44 yards). They also combined for three touchdowns.

The two squads haven’t met since 2006. The Nittany Lions have won the past two contests straight up while Minnesota won the previous four before that. Most of the head-to-head betting trends aren’t very plausible in this contest only because most of the players weren’t around three years back.

However, there is an interesting trend to ponder. The Gophers have been dogs the last eight times these two teams have met. They’ve come through for bettors more times than not with a 5-2-1 mark ATS in those games.

The Gophers are also 4-1 ATS in their last five October contests.

Penn State can top that with a 5-0-1 October mark ATS, but have had a hard time covering at Beaver Stadium as of late with a 1-4 record ATS.

The Gophers have a lot of over trends while Penn State has under trends. The over has come in the last four games for Minnesota and the under is 4-1 in the last five home games for the Nittany Lions.

Penn State is still trying to prove to the nation they’re deserving of their ranking and can be considered a national title contender. Minnesota is looking to get over the hump of garnering that quality win in the 2009 season that vaults them into the Top 25.

Oracle’s Pick: This seems like an awfully high spread. The Nittany Lions haven’t necessarily been that impressive to be favored by more than two scores against a Big Ten foe like Minnesota. If sportsbooks think they’ve trapped bettors, they may have fooled themselves. If you can get the Golden Gophers +16.5, jump on it!

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