Syracuse Orange (0-1 SU, 1-0 ATS) vs. No. 5 Penn State Nittany Lions (1-0 SU, 0-1 AS), 12 p.m. EST, Beaver Stadium, September 12th, 2009, Beaver Stadium, University Park, PA, TV: Big Ten Network
By Oracle of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Penn State -28/Syracuse +28
You would think going into Saturdays contest between Penn State and Syracuse the headlines would be about how the Nittany Lions are one of the top teams in the nation. Or even about how head coach Joe Paterno is trying to keep his distance from Bobby Bowden for most collegiate wins of all time. Or maybe even about their quarterback who has slipped under the radar in the Heisman talk.
But, alas, its not.
Instead, the headlines surround the Syracuse Orange, who won just five games in the last two years combined. So whats the big fuss all about for Saturday afternoons game that is set to air on the Big Ten Network? Well, Greg Paulus, of course.
Paulus made some people turn their heads in the offseason. Originally a 2004 high school football player of the year, Paulus decided to play basketball at Duke University instead of pursue a football career.
Paulus played his senior year of basketball at Duke during the 2008-09 year and worked out with the Green Bay Packers in the off-season. After receiving an NCAA waiver to play football as a graduate student for the Orange, he ended up being named the teams starting quarterback.
Although the Orange started off this season like the past couple with a loss they may have something good going. They played Minnesota tough, but lost on a field goal in overtime, as Paulus made his biggest mistake in crunch time with an interception.
The Oranges close call last week didnt keep online sportsbooks from putting the Nittany Lions on a pedestal, though. They still go into Saturdays game as a favorite -28 to open up. Some bookies have even upped that to -29.5.
Meanwhile, the over/under opened at a pretty robust 53 points.
The Nittany Lions look like a team to be reckoned with again this season, as they have appeared in two BCS games in the last four years.
Daryl Clark returns as the teams quarterback. Supposedly Penn State was going into have a little trouble replacing the targets Clark went to the last year, but Saturdays contests eased some of those concerns.
Clark went 29-for-40 for a career-high 353 yards. He hit the trio of the relatively inexperienced Graham Zug, Chaz Powell, and Derek Moye on 18 of those completions for 265 yards and a touchdown apiece.
The Nittany Lions trounced Akron, 31-7, but were outscored 7-0 in the second half. The poor second half ruined any chances of what looked like an automatic cover at halftime with the line favoring Penn State -29, a very similar line to this week.
The Orange, on the other hand, were 7-point dogs on Saturday in the overtime loss to Minnesota and covered the spread, losing 23-20.
Paulus did well considering he hasnt played any football since his senior year of high school in 2004. He finished 19-for-31 with 167 yards, one touchdown and one costly interception.
Another interesting situation surrounding Syracuse is since first year head coach Doug Marrone has taken over the program, theyve had 19 scholarship players quit the team.
These two teams met last season, but it wasnt even a contest with Penn State winning 55-13. These two teams used to have a huge rivalry until 1990 when the Big East was broken up. They renewed that rivalry last season, but the game wasnt even close. Penn State gained nearly 400 yards and scored 35 points in the first half. So the big question is for bettors, will a blow out happen two years in a row?
Although Syracuse covered the spread in their season opener against Minnesota, they havent had much luck as of late. Theyre just 1-4 ATS when facing Big Ten teams in their last five games. The one win was obviously this past week.
However, theyve shown some muster against teams with winning records, going 5-2 ATS in the last seven contests. (Speaking of contests… Did you know we offer a free weekly pick 10 against the spread contest? Check it out in our sports handicapping contests section. There’s some NFL shindig’s in there as well!)
The Nittany Lions devour poor teams. Theyre 6-1 ATS in their last seven games against programs with a losing record. An interesting note though is theyre just 1-4 ATS in their last five games overall.
The over/under trends are aplenty for the two teams. The under has come in five of the last six times the Nittany Lions didnt cover a spread in their previous game.
For the Cuse, the under is 4-1-1 in the last six contests against teams with a winning record.
What a lot of people want to find out is not whether Syracuse is for real, just whether theyre better than in years past and will actually stay in games. The proof will be in the pudding when they take on Penn State on Saturday.
Oracles Pick: Penn State has a pretty good offense, but they couldnt cover a big point spread against Akron. Were sure that Syracuse can keep it within the big line as well. Take Syracuse plus all those 29.5 points!