Boston College Eagles (7-5 SU, 8-4 ATS) vs. Penn State Nittany Lions (6-6 SU, 5-6-1 ATS)
New Era Pinstripe Bowl
Date and Time: December 27 - 4:30pm ET
Where: Yankee Stadium
by Evergreen, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: BC -2.5/PSU +2.5
Over/Under Total: 40
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Bowl season conjure s up thoughts of warm-weather vacation destinations but there are a few games during the postseason that buck that trend. The Pinstripe Bowl from Yankee Stadium is just one of two Northeast sites and the 5th annual bowl game features Boston College squaring off against Penn State. Much of the story with the game is in the very inclusion of Penn State as the Nittany Lions will be making their first bowl appearance since 2011after their postseason ban was lifted earlier this year. This winds up being a very fitting match given the regional presence of the teams and I think it will be a good thing to see Penn State back on TV this bowl season.
The online betting sites opened with Boston College as a 2.5 point favorite and there has been virtually no movement off that opening line but there are a few places where you can find Penn State at +3. These teams have met several times in the past but havent played since Boston College won both halves of a home and home in 2003 and 2004. BC is just 1-5 against the spread in its last six bowl games while Penn State is riding a 5-0 ATS streak against non-conference opponents.
Boston College is representing the ACC but this game will be about as Big Ten as it gets. BC is a run-heavy offense with a stifling defense, just the kind of thing that has been the hallmark of many traditional Big Ten teams. The Eagles run the ball over 70% of the time, logging the 8th most rushing attempt per game and rank 11th in time of possession. They will face the #1 ranked rush defense of Penn State and the Lions have held the opposition to 84 yards per game on the ground. Linebacker Brandon Bell is slated to return for PSU after missing the final two games of the regular season, further improving that stout run defense.
Boston College essentially finished sixth in the ACC and is rightfully the favorite over a Penn State team that is no better than 8th in the Big Ten. The Eagles have good wins over USC and Virginia Tech but their best game of the season was likely the 20-17 loss at Florida State when they pushed FSU to the limit. An effort along those lines will have BC in good shape against an inconsistent Lions team. Penn State fired out of the gates at 4-0 with wins at UCF and Rutgers but won only two their final eight games beating just Indiana and Temple after that good start. PSU had a good showing in defeat against Ohio State, pushing the Buckeyes to overtime before falling 31-24. State managed just 24 total points in two losses to finish the season and wound up 2-6 in a relatively weak Big Ten.
Boston College quarterback Tyler Murphy is one of the best players on the field in this game. He has thrown for 1,526 yards and 11 touchdowns but is a better runner, accounting for 1,074 yards on the ground with 10 touchdowns. Penn State will look to make Murphy throw as the BC quarterback has ten interceptions on the season and they would really like to keep him off his 6.4 yards per carry average. Jon Hillman is a bruiser at running back for the Eagles, averaging just 3.8 yards per carry but leads the team with 12 touchdowns. To let you know a bit about the pass game for BC, consider that their leading receiver is a converted quarterback. Josh Bordner leads the Eagles with 26 catches for 342 yards and 3 touchdowns so dont expect Boston College to come out throwing in this one. BC finished the year as the 15th best rushing attack and averaged 25.9 points per game.
Christian Hackenberg makes the PSU offense go and his inconsistencies have largely led to the 6-6 record. Hackenberg has completed just 54% of his passes and thrown just 8 touchdowns against 15 interceptions. Akeel Lynch and Bill Belton are serviceable runners but neither has top-end playmaking ability and the Lions enter the week ranked 120th in rushing offense. DaeSean Hamilton has been a stud at receiver, grabbing 75 passes for 848 yards but has managed just one trip to the endzone and is about the only dependable option in the passing game. Hackenberg has had a lot on his shoulders with an underperforming offense and it has led to too many mistakes and not enough big plays. Penn State averages just 19.8 points per game and they will be tested to reach that total against a BC defense that is 12th in yards allowed and 18th in points per game.
If Penn State had mustered a better finish to the season, it would be easier to suggest that they had a good chance to dump the Eagles but losing to teams like Illinois and Michigan make it tough to make a case. Boston College isnt a juggernaut but they have a diverse and proven running attack and will simply look to wear down PSU. The Eagles wont be flustered if State can hold them down early and BCs own stingy defense should keep the Lions in check. It is a great thing for Penn State fans to see their team in a bowl game after what that university has been through over the past few years but this bowl game is likely not going to produce a win for them. A 2.5 point line doesnt bother me a bit and I think BC grinds out a 23-13 win.
Evergreens Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Boston College