Penn State Nittany Lions at Maryland Terrapins Week 5 Pick
Penn State Nittany Lions (3-0) at Maryland Terrapins (2-1)
When: Friday, September 27, 8 p.m. EDT
Where: Maryland Stadium, College Park, Md.
Point Spread: PSU -7 (BetOnline)
Total: O/U 58
Outlook For Week 5
Will rust or rest be the name of the game when these short-time rivals meet on a Friday? Neither squad has played since Week 3, and neither was particularly pleased with their efforts, as Maryland followed an execution of Syracuse with a loss at Temple and Penn State eked out a seven-point win over its true rival, Pittsburgh (a result that looks a lot better given the Panthers’ stunning upset of Central Florida). This marks the Big Ten opener for both teams as well as a chance to prove whether their hot starts or their lackluster third games are more indicative of the kind of team that they really are.
How the Public is Betting the Penn State/Maryland Game
The line opened at Penn State minus-6, but it’s shifted a full point toward the Nittany Lions, who are seeking their fifth consecutive win and 40th all-time victory over the Terrapins. The over-under has not changed, holding steady at 58 points.
Running back Journey Brown left the Pittsburgh game with a knee injury and is questionable. Wide receiver Daniel George is also questionable with a wrist injury.
The Terrapins are down one of their deep-threat running backs, as Jake Funk tore his ACL against Temple and is lost for the season.
When Penn State Has the Ball
If Journey Brown can’t go, this situation gets hairy in a hurry for the Nittany Lions. Brown is an all-purpose back who can get short yardage as well as break the big run, which he did for an 85-yarder that set up a Penn State touchdown in the win over Pitt. But take that one play away, and the Nittany Lions did next to nothing on the ground against the Panthers. Without that run, Penn State would have finished with just 82 yards on 31 carries, and while Pitt boasts a strong front seven, that’s a worrying number. Devyn Ford ran the ball well against Idaho, but didn’t do a thing against either Buffalo or Pittsburgh. Maryland only gives up 73.7 yards a game on the ground, which could spell a lot of trouble for the running game.
That means the ball will likely spend much of the game in Sean Clifford’s hands. Clifford spreads the ball well and has made solid decisions with it, tossing six touchdowns against no interceptions in Penn State’s first three games. The Terrapins, however, also have a solid pass defense that has allowed just 13 points a game this season, so this will be a real test for Clifford. He was sacked three times by Pitt’s pressure, and Maryland has 13 sacks on the year, which could put him on the run.
When Maryland Has the Ball
So who is Maryland, really? Are the Terrapins the team that put up 142 points against Howard and Syracuse, seemingly establishing their offense as one of the best in the Big Ten? Or are they the group that couldn’t protect Josh Jackson, giving up four sacks to Temple and putting up just 17 points on an Owls squad that got blistered by Buffalo a week later? It’s tough to tell. This is the first time this season that Maryland has met any adversity, and historically, the Terrapins haven’t been good at handling adversity.
If Jackson is going to be effective, he needs Anthony McFarland to find some running room and give him time to make good decisions. But that could be challenging, as Penn State’s defense is even stingier than Maryland’s, giving up just 10 points per game. The Lions are especially effective against the run, which means Maryland has to find an early way to get Jackson going if it’s going to hang around in this game.
More Picks: Arizona St. at Cal Pick Against the Spread
First, the good news for Maryland: the Terrapins have covered the spread in six of their past seven home games. But there are two problems here. The first is that historically, Maryland doesn’t come back sharp and focused from a bye. The Terrapins tend to come back flat, which is why they’ve lost 10 of their past 13 ATS after a bye week. The other problem is that Penn State has beaten Maryland’s brains in for decades. The Terrapins have beaten the Nittany Lions just twice in their history, and in the James Franklin era, Maryland’s moved further away from toppling Penn State. In four games against the Franklin-led Nittany Lions, the Terrapins have scored a combined 50 points — 16 fewer than the Nittany Lions put up in their most recent trip to College Park, a 66-3 beating in 2017.
The teams have tended to play high-scoring affairs as of late, as seven of Penn State’s past eight road games and four of Maryland’s past five home games have gone over the over-under total.
College Park will be warm, but not horrible, on Friday, as the temperatures is supposed to reach a high of 81 degrees.
Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread
This is an interesting game to pick, given the history between the teams. Penn State has gotten up for Maryland under Franklin, who famously proclaimed that he saw the Old Line State as in-state territory for the Nittany Lions and has backed it up with four straight wins over the Terrapins. On the other side of the coin, this is Mike Locksley’s first taste of the rivalry, and it’s anyone’s guess as to how he chooses to approach it.
What we do know about these teams is that this is going to be a battle of two teams who do a lot of the same things well. Both play tough defense, both can stop the run pretty well and neither run it all that well themselves. That means the best bet on the board is probably the under, as I think both of these teams have the ability to stop the other one cold.
As for picking between the teams, I have to lean toward experience. Penn State has been here before and is coming off a win. Maryland is in unfamiliar territory with its new coach and hasn’t yet shown how it might respond to adversity. I’d rather trust the team that knows how to bounce back from a less-than-solid performance, especially in the wake of how their Week 3 showings look now. Not only did Penn State win its game, but it beat a Pittsburgh team that managed to turn around and upset Central Florida the next week.
What did the Temple team that beat Maryland do? The Owls found themselves down three touchdowns to Buffalo in a 38-22 loss. That’s the same Buffalo team that Penn State crushed 45-13 in Week 2.
$100% Cash up to $500