Ball State and Penn State will meet for the first time on Saturday. That makes it a tough matchup to read because both head coaches will have to feel each other out for the first time. Ball State is coming off a MAC Championship, but they struggled against Western Illinois last week. In contrast, Penn State looked amazing in their victory over No. 12 Wisconsin. They held the Badgers to two rushing yards in the first half!
With these teams having never met before, we must use alternative data sources to handicap this one. We know that Penn State has gone 27-3 against MAC opponents all time. They are currently on an eight-game winning streak that dates back to 2012. Ball State will return 20 starters this year, including 3 All-MAC players on offense. Ball State also has the MAC defensive player of the year on the other end of the ball.
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Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook
- Opening Lines: Penn State -22.5, O 55
Penn State looked good this week. They beat Wisconsin 16-10, picked the ball off twice, and caused a pair of fumbles. Penn State held Wisconsin, traditionally one of the best rushing offenses in the NCAA, to two rushing yards in the first half. Wisconsin’s style of play helped keep this game low-scoring. That type of production will slow down. Teams will score more than ten points as they learn Penn State’s defense. The question we need to find out is when more points will get scored.
Penn State’s offense was solid. Sixteen points may not sound like much, but it was exactly what they needed against a stout Wisconsin defense. Clifford threw for 247 yards and a touchdown, Cain had eight rushes for 48 yards and a touchdown, and Dotson had five catches for 102 yards and a touchdown. Against average defenses, we will certainly see this offense put up more than 16 points every week. Such is the case against Ball State. Penn State will score over 20 points against the reigning MAC champions.
Ball State had a rough game in Week 1, no doubt about it. The score was 7-7 at halftime, and they were up against a mediocre Western Illinois team. With Ball State returning 20 starters, they should be better than last year. They ended the 2020 season at No. 23 in the AP Poll and won the MAC, and I expect this offense to make some progress in Week 2. They have three All-MAC players on offense, including quarterback Drew Plitt. Plitt will come into this game ready to play, and we should see a better performance out of Ball State this week.
Ball State’s defense is good. They aren’t on the same level as Penn State and Wisconsin, but they can make some stops and get turnovers. With the MAC Defensive Player of the Year Brandon Martin returning, the front seven should remain a solid group for the Cardinals. Penn State will score on this defense, but they will give themselves a chance to be in this game early on, at least until Penn State’s efficiency and depth come into play.
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Penn State will win this game. Ball State will hang in early, but Penn State is the better team, and it will start to show later in the game. Ball State will play better on offense and defense than last week, while Penn State will regress on the defensive side of the ball. This is the game of the year for Ball State, and they will do anything they can to stay in this game. For Penn State, this is their first chance to play in front of a packed home crowd in a long time. I expect Penn State to win by 17-21 points. Once they are up, they will control the clock, allowing Ball State to cover the spread.
Pick: Ball State +22.5 (-110)
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Cameron Lynch is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from Cameron, check out his archive and follow him @captron26.