The Capital One Bowl: Penn State Nittany Lions (10-2, 6-6 ATS) vs. Louisiana State Tiger (9-3, 5-7 ATS), Florida Citrus Bowl, Orlando, Friday, Jan. 1st, 1 PM Eastern, ABC
By Z-Man of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Lions -2 1/2/Tigers +2 1/2
In a battle of big-time football cats, the Penn State Nittany Lions of the Big 10 take on the Louisiana State Tigers of the Southeastern Conference in the Capital One Bowl down in Orlando on New Year’s Day.
Most online college football betting outlets opened this game with Penn State favored by 2 or three points, with a total of 44. As of mid-Christmas week most shops were listing the Lions at -2 , while the total had held firm.
Penn State was also being offered at right around -140 on most moneylines, with LSU getting +120 as the underdogs.
JoePa’s boys opened the season as about a 5/2 choice to win the Big 10 this year, and at about 15/1 to-20/1 to win the BCS championship. But after a 3-0 start, the Lions lost their conference opener at home to Iowa. PSU then beat up on five inferior outfits in a row, then lost at home again, to Ohio State. They then finished off their regular-season slate with consecutive victories over Indiana and Michigan.
So the Lions finished in a tie for second place in the Big 10 with Iowa at 6-2, although technically they finished third thanks to their loss to the Hawkeyes.
LSU returned 14 starters from last season, and opened this season listed at right around 5/1 to win the SEC championship, and at anywhere from 15/1 to 35/1 to win the BCS title. And they started 5-0, with road wins at Washington, Mississippi State and Georgia. The Tigers then lost at home to Florida 13-3, won two in a row, lost at Alabama 24-15 (a game they led going into the fourth quarter), beat Louisiana Tech, lost at Mississippi and then finished the regular season with a thrilling overtime victory over Arkansas in the battle for the Golden Boot.
So LSU finished second in the SEC West at 5-3.
Lions senior QB Daryll Clark completed 62% of his passes this season for 8.1 YPA, with 23 TD passes, and 10 interceptions. But he looked iffy against a couple of the better defenses in the Big 10, particularly the losses to Iowa and Ohio State.
Tigers sophomore QB Jordan Jefferson has also hit on 62% of his throws this season for a respectable 7.2 YPA, with 16 TDs and six INTs.
Playing the 80th-toughest schedule in the land this season (according to Sagarin at USAToday.com), Penn State ranked 37th in total offense at 413 PG, 39th in rushing at 174 YPG, eighth in total defense at 277 YPG and 10th vs. the run at 94 YPG.
In playing the 18th-toughest schedule, LSU ranked 108th in FBS in offense at 310 YPG, 85th in rushing at 130 YPG, 28th in defense at 326 YPG and 44th vs. the run at 134 YPG.
But the Tigers struggled a bit down the stretch, and got outgained and outrushed each of their last four games, even in a 24-16 win over Louisiana Tech.
LSU is 4-0 both straight up and ATS in its four bowl games under Coach Miles.
Penn State is playing in a bowl for the fifth straight season. In their last four, they’re 3-1 SU and 2-2 vs. the numbers.
On the injury front, Tigers RB Charles Scott, who leads the team in rushing this season, broke his collarbone back in November, and his status for Jan. 1 is uncertain. And LSU’s top two back-up backs are probably out for this game, too.
Louisiana State went 1-3 straight up and 2-2 against the pointspreads this season when dogged on the betting lines.
Penn State was favored in all of its games this season. When chalked by a touchdown or less, they went 2-1 both SU and ATS.
The unders went 7-5 in Tigers games this season, which averaged 41.5 points, as the totals on their games averaged 47 .
Meanwhile, the unders went 8-4 in Lions games, which also averaged 41.5 points, as the posted totals on their games averaged 48.
In the only-ever meeting between these two teams, Penn State, coached even then by that Paterno guy, completed a perfect season with a 16-9 victory over LSU in the 1974 Orange Bowl.
The Big 10 and SEC have squared off in the Citrus/Capital One Bowl at the end of each of the last 17 seasons. The SEC representative has won nine of those 17 games. But the Big 10 rep has won four of the last five.
The Sagarin PREDICTOR rankings at USAToday.com rate Penn State at 84.5, LSU at 83.9. So the Lions are favored by about a half-point on the Sagarin line.
Sagarin also ranks the SEC as the best conference in college football this season, with an average team rating of 81.3, while the Big 10 ranks sixth, with an average team rating of 72.9.
Z-Man’s Pick: I like the UNDER 44 as a VERY strong play. Defense rules the roost at the Citrus Bowl on New Year’s Day!