Penn State Football

Breaking down Penn State football’s betting odds to win 2020 national championship

Penn State defensive tackle Antonio Shelton pumps up the defense for the game against Kentucky in the Citrus Bowl at Camping World Stadium on Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019.
Penn State defensive tackle Antonio Shelton pumps up the defense for the game against Kentucky in the Citrus Bowl at Camping World Stadium on Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019. adrey@centredaily.com

Less than 24 hours after Dabo Swinney’s Clemson routed Alabama, bookmakers were already looking ahead to next season.

Odds to win the 2020 national championship were released on Tuesday by BetOnline, and the Nittany Lions found themselves lumped into a lower tier. Penn State’s odds sit at 80/1, joining Iowa, Miami, Texas A&M, USC, Utah and Virginia Tech.

Naturally, Trevor Lawrence and the Tigers are betting favorites to repeat at 2/1. Alabama has the second-best odds at 5/2, followed by three teams at 12/1: Ohio State, Michigan and Georgia. Oklahoma owns 14/1 odds, while five teams — Florida, Notre Dame, Nebraska, Texas and Washington — sit at 25/1.

Oregon is alone at 33/1. Auburn, LSU, Mississippi State and Wisconsin hold down the 50/1 category, and for good measure, self-proclaimed 2017 national champion UCF rounds out the odds at 250/1.

Are Penn State’s odds a little off?

No, not really. It can be argued that Penn State should be in the 50/1 group, but the Nittany Lions’ 80/1 odds sound right for a couple reasons.

Trace McSorley will be replaced by a first-time starter, whether that’s Tommy Stevens or Sean Clifford. Penn State needs to fill holes on its offensive and defensive lines, as well, with Shareef Miller, Kevin Givens, Ryan Bates and Connor McGovern all declaring early. Franklin’s recruiting efforts might make 2019 a “reload” not a “rebuild,” but it’s still a tall task to replace that many pieces and contend for a national title.

Plus, the Nittany Lions’ schedule isn’t favorable. In a three-week span in October, Penn State travels to Iowa, hosts Michigan and visits Michigan State. And a month later, the Nittany Lions face Ohio State at The Shoe.

Now, that schedule — that opportunity ahead of Penn State — might attract bettors, especially those looking for value in the 80/1 category. USC didn’t make a bowl game, while Virginia Tech, Miami and Utah had lackluster finishes to 2018. But the Nittany Lions can’t be considered anything more than a dart throw with so much up in the air entering 2019.

Best bet

Georgia: The Bulldogs lost running back Elijah Holyfield and their top three receiving options to 2019 NFL draft decisions, but expect Georgia to contend for a playoff spot yet again.

Quarterback Jake Fromm, running back D’Andre Swift and four returning offensive linemen will lead the Dawgs’ offense, while a bevy of five-star talent on the defensive side of the ball should form a young but hungry unit. Plus, Georgia’s schedule isn’t too bad; Kirby Smart’s squad hosts Notre Dame, Kentucky, Texas A&M and South Carolina with its only true road test coming at Auburn.

Georgia should find itself in the SEC title game again, making that 12/1 bet money well spent.

Worst bet

Nebraska: Putting the Cornhuskers in the same category as Notre Dame, Florida, Texas and Washington at 25/1 seems a bit much.

Yes, quarterback Adrian Martinez, who accounted for 3,246 yards and 25 touchdowns as a freshman, is electric. Yes, the Huskers have a cushy schedule, with Ohio State, Wisconsin and Iowa all at home. And yes, head coach Scott Frost has a history of successful second seasons; the former UCF coach led the Knights to a 13-0 season after going 6-7 in 2016.

But Nebraska had four wins in 2018, and one of them was against Bethune-Cookman. The thought that the Cornhuskers will turn things around that quickly is jumping the gun a bit.

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