Eastern Illinois Panthers (4-1 SU, 0-0 ATS) vs. Penn State Nittany Lions (4-1 SU, 1-4 ATS), 12:00 p.m. EST, Saturday, October 10, 2009, Beaver Stadium, State College, Pa. TV: ESPN Classic/ESPN360.com
by Ryno of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Eastern Illinois +37/Penn State -37
Penn State’s national championship hopes were crushed two weeks ago in a 21-10 loss to Iowa. The Nittany Lions rebounded well by winning at Illinois last week, 35-17. Now, they get to relax a little as FCS team Eastern Illinois comes to Happy Valley.
In their first three games, the Nittany Lions gave up a combined 20 points and got three wins over Akron, Syracuse and Temple. But the lack of competition hurt them when they faced Iowa, who beat them and killed their national title hopes for the second straight year.
Against Iowa, the Hawkeyes were able to limit Penn State to 111 rushing yards, including only 69 by running back Evan Royster. That forced quarterback Darryl Clark to throw the ball 32 times, not the way the Nittany Lions usually win their games. And Clark completed just 12 of those pass attempts for 198 yards. He threw one touchdown pass and three interceptions. It was not a good day for Clark and the Nittany Lions at all. The Hawkeyes didn’t win their offense. It was their defense that got the job done.
For the season, Clark has thrown for 1,133 yards, nine touchdowns and six interceptions while completing 61 percent of his passes. Royster has 410 rushing yards and four touchdowns. Stephfon Green can also run the ball well for the Nittany Lions – he has 37 carries for 190 yards and two touchdowns. Derek Moye, Chaz Powell, Graham Zug and Andrew Quarless are all capable of catching passes. All four players have at least 15 receptions and 150 yards for the season. Moye leads the way with 19 receptions for 390 yards and two touchdowns.
Eastern Illinois is an FCS team that plays in the Ohio Valley Conference. The Panthers started the season 4-0, including three road wins in three weeks, which is not an easy task at all. But the Panthers may have been caught looking ahead to Penn State, as they lost 36-31 at home to Eastern Kentucky following the three road wins.
In the loss to Eastern Kentucky, the Panthers ran for just 44 yards on 26 carries. Mon Williams ran for 77 yards on 12 carries, but the rest of them team totaled -33 yards on the ground. Still, Eastern Illinois managed to score 31 points, as quarterback Jake Christensen threw for 294 yards and three touchdowns. Christensen also threw two interceptions and the Panthers lost three fumbles.
In five games, Christensen has totaled 1,090 passing yards, 11 touchdowns and three interceptions. Williams has 441 rushing yards and six touchdowns.
Last season, the Panthers faced two FBS teams. They lost at Central Michigan 31-12 to start the season. Then, they lost 47-21 at Illinois the following week. This is the fourth straight year Eastern Illinois is facing a Big Ten team. In 2007, the Panthers lost 52-6 at Purdue. In 2006, they lost 42-17 at Illinois. They also lost 44-9 at Hawaii in 2006.
Penn State is 1-5 ATS in its last six games, including a 1-4 mark this season. The Nittany Lions are also 1-5 ATS in their last six home games. Four of their last five games have gone under.
Ryno’s Pick: Penn State is a 37-point favorite in this game. But the Nittany Lions haven’t scored 37 points in a game this season, even against Akron, Syracuse and Temple. They will likely get a lead in the first half of this game, but against their first three opponents the Nittany Lions let up after halftime. If they do the same in this game, which is likely against a FCS team, it will be a tough cover. In the Panthers’ last five games against FBS opponents, they lost by 37 points only once. Besides that, winning three road games in three weeks this season is quite the impressive feat. Penn State has struggled to score points this season, which is the reason for the loss to Iowa. The Nittany Lions defense has been exceptional, but it takes a strong offense to cover a large spread. Take Eastern Illinois +37.