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Penn State Betting Odds Preview

The light is appearing at the end of the tunnel for the Nittany Lions, as next year they'll once again be eligible to compete for the Big Ten title and the postseason. Head coach Bill O'Brien did a great job the last two years holding this program together, winning 15 games in the process.

Over the offseason Penn State lost O'Brien to the Houston Texans, but lured James Franklin away from Vanderbilt to take over. The Lions may not match last season's victory total this year, as Franklin implements his systems, but they'll be another year past the troubles, and ready to play for more than pride next season.

Penn State Odds to Win Big Ten: Ineligible/Sanctions
Penn State Regular Season Win Total: 7.5 at Bovada

Penn State started last year 2-0, then alternated losses and wins for the rest of the season. The Lions lost at home to eventual Fiesta Bowl champion Central Florida, later lost at Indiana, beat Michigan in four overtimes, got blown out at Ohio State, beat Illinois in OT, lost at Minnesota, beat Purdue, lost to Nebraska in OT, then won outright at Wisconsin as 24-point dogs to finish at 7-5 overall, 4-4 in Big Ten play.

But one year after going 9-3 ATS Penn State regressed to 5-7 ATS last year.

This year the Lions only return 12 starters, second-fewest in the conference. Five starters are back on offense, including QB Christian Hackenberg, who compiled a 20/10 TD/INT ratio as a true freshman last year, and two RBs, Zach Zwinak and Bill Belton, who each ran for more than 800 yards. But they've got four holes to fill along the offensive line. And seven starters are back on defense, although they lost three of last year's top five tacklers.

Penn State opens this season with a trip to Dublin for a rematch with Central Florida. From there the Lions play at Rutgers, Michigan and Indiana, and host Northwestern, Ohio State, old rival Maryland, and Michigan State. They also miss Wisconsin, Nebraska and Iowa.

Franklin went 24-15 with three straight bowl appearances (two wins) at Vanderbilt – Vanderbilt! Apparently, he knows what he's doing. When the sanctions come off this program may explode. As for this season, much of it will consist of the learning curve that comes with a new coaching regime.

Big Ten Championship Odds at Bovada as of August 5

Ohio State 10/11
Michigan State 15/4
Wisconsin 9/2
Nebraska 11/2
Michigan 10/1
Iowa 12/1
Northwestern 40/1
Minnesota 66/1
Indiana 100/1
Maryland 100/1
Illinois 200/1
Rutgers 200/1
Purdue 300/1

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Considering the cloud they played under last year the Penn State Nittany Lions were one of the pleasant surprises of college football last year.

With just a half-dozen returning starters, a new head coach, and an 0-2 start Penn State proceeded to win eight games playing for little more than pride. This year the Lions are still ineligible to win the division or play in a bowl, serving a postseason ban. Can they recapture some of last year's magic?

Odds to Win Big Ten: (Ineligible)
Regular Season Win Total: 8 at 5Dimes

Penn State began last season in the strangest of circumstances; coach Paterno was gone, several players had transferred out, and nobody expected anything out of the Lions. And with just six returning starters they lost their first two games, blowing leads at home against Ohio and at Virginia. But after that Penn State lost just twice; to Ohio State, which eventually went 12-0, and to Nebraska, which won the Legends Division.

The Lions won five in a row, all by at least 11 points, before falling to the Buckeyes, and after the loss in Lincoln (blowing another lead) won their last two, including an overtime game at home against eventual conference champion Wisconsin.

So PSU finished 8-4 overall, 6-2 in Big Ten play, and went a moneymaking 9-3 ATS, thanks to diminished expectations and a +9 turnover ratio. This year the Lions get 14 starters back; eight starters return on offense, including 1,000-yard rusher Zach Zwinak, the entire receiving corps, led by WR Allen Robinson (77 catches for over 1,000 yards last year), and three along the offensive line; and six starters return on defense, although they will have to replace four of last year's top five tacklers. But they lose three-year starting QB Matt McGloin, and might have to go with a freshman behind center.

This year's non-conference slate won't exactly be a piece of cake, with a game against Syracuse in New Jersey and home dates with Central Florida and Kent State. Penn State should be favored at Indiana and at Minnesota, but will have tough times at Ohio State and at Wisconsin. And while they'll be big favorites at home against Illinois and Purdue, that won't be the case when Michigan and Nebraska visit Happy Valley. If the Lions can get some decent play at QB early on they could be 5-0 heading into the October 5 Homecoming bout with the Wolverines.

Big Ten Championship Odds at 5Dimes as of August 5

Ohio State -115
Michigan +520
Nebraska +750
Michigan State +800
Northwestern +900
Wisconsin +1000
Indiana +5000
Iowa +5000
Minnesota +8500
Purdue +10000
Illinois +20000