The Penn State Nittany Lions and the Purdue Boilermakers will both look to get off on the right foot in Big Ten play when they square off at Rose-ade Stadium in West Lafayette (Ind.). Kickoff for the Thursday night clash is slated for 8 p.m.(ET), with Fox providing the television coverage. Both teams are considered top 50 squads in the nation and are among others receiving votes in the AP and Coaches polls.

Penn State is opening the season against a Big Ten opponent on the road for a third straight year. PSU, which has finished the past two seasons with a losing conference record, defeated the Wisconsin Badgers in the season-opener last season.

Meanwhile, Purdue is celebrating its 135th season of football by beginning the campaign at home for a third consecutive year. The Boilermakers are looking to finish with a winning record in Big Ten play in consecutive years, after going 6-3 last season, for the first time in over 40 years. 2003-04 was the last time they had nonlosing campaigns in back-to-back years.

About Penn State Nittany Lions

Penn State is coming off a disappointing 7-6 (4-5 Big 10) season after beginning the campaign ranked 19th in the country and getting high as No. 4. The Nittany Lions open their 136th football campaign among the top unranked teams as they sit just outside the top 25 in both polls, marking the first time since coach James Franklin’s second season that they have not been ranked in the preseason.

PSU returns 33 letterwinners from last year, including 12 starters, with six on offense and five on defense. The Lions have several other returnees with significant experience, four being offensive players, seven being defensive players, and one specialist.

6th-year senior Sean Clifford (3107 passing yards, 21 TD, 8 INT) leads an offense that averaged 25 points and 376.4 yards, with 265.8 yards coming via the air and 107.8 coming on the ground. Sophomore Keyvone Lee led the running attack a year ago with 530 yards for a solid 4.9 yards per carry.

Clifford won’t have Washington Commander first-round draft choice Jahan Dotson as a safety blanket, but he does have some talent returning at wide receiver. Sophomore Parker Washington (64-820, 4 TDs) showed significant improvement last year and had some big games – vs. Ohio State, Michigan, and Arkansas. There are also high hopes for big tight end Brenton Strange and Western Kentucky speedy transfer Mitchell Tinsley (87-1402, 14 TDs).

However, it is on the defensive side that really got Happy Valley excited. Former Miami Hurricane head coach Manny Diaz will be in charge of the defensive and linebackers.

Diaz, whose defenses are known to control the line of scrimmage, has a lot of talent returning from a unit that allowed the 17th fewest points in the nation at just 17.5 a game in 2021. The Lions held their opponents to 353 total yards of offense, with 199.8 yards coming via the air though they did have trouble stopping the run (153.8 yards).

Senior DT PJ Mustipher (110 tackles, 10 TFL, 3.0 sacks in career) will provide leadership to the defense after appearing in five games last season due to a leg injury and anchor the middle of the line. Linebackers Jonathan Sutherland and Curtis Jacobs (61 tackles, 7 TFL, 3 sacks), safety Ji’ayir Brown (73 tackles, 6 INT, 1 FF, 2 FR), and CB Joey Porter Jr. (50 tackles, 1 Int) are other players to watch.

About Purdue Boilermakers

The Purdue Boilermakers are coming off their best season under sixth-year head coach Jeff Brohm (9-4) and their first bowl appearance since 2018. The Boilermakers are also receiving votes, getting the 34th most votes by the media and 49th from the coaches.

Purdue returns 17 starters from a team that produced the second-most wins in program history – the Boilermakers have won nine contests in a season 12 times. Six returning starters are on the offensive side, led by 24-year-old signal caller Aidan O’Connell. O’Connell was fantastic a year ago, throwing for 3,712 yards with 28 scores and 11 interceptions.

The Boilermakers’ offense produced 29.1 points and 440.1 yards, with only 84.8 yards coming on the ground. Leading rusher King Doerue (135-535, 2 TD; 20 rec.-156 yards) returns though he will likely share duties with Central Michigan transfer Kobe Lewis, who has accumulated 1,500 rushing yards over the last two seasons. Sophomore Dylan Downing also returns.

While O’Connell won’t have his top three targets from a year ago, Brohm brought in Iowa transfers Charlie Jones and Tyrone Tracy. The duo will bring speed and versatility as Jones also returns kicks while Tracy is a capable runner. Tight end Payne Durham (45-467, 6 TDs) along with wideouts TJ Sheffield (36-325, 5 TDs), and Broc Thompson (30-457, 4 TDs) lead a plethora of returning pass catchers.

Like Penn State, Purdue is excited about the potential of its defense. The Boilermakers return eight starters on that side of the ball and several other players who were in the rotation last season. They permitted 22.4 points along 368.1 total offense with 208.7 yards coming thru the air and 159.4 yards on the ground in 2021.

Head-to-Head Betting Trends

Penn State has won the past nine meetings against Purdue and leads the all-time series 15-3-1. The Nittany Lions defeated the Boilermakers 35-7 the last time they met in 2019 at Beaver Stadium. The Nittany Lions have also won seven of the nine games in West Lafayette.

  • Penn State are 10-4-1 ATS in their last 15 games against Purdue.
  • Nittany Lions are 3-0-1 ATS in their last 4 meetings in Purdue.
  • Road team is 6-1-1 ATS in their last 8 meetings.
  • Under is 9-2-1 in the last 12 meetings.
  • Under is 4-1 in the last 5 meetings in Purdue.

Betting Lines For The Game

Spread: PSU -3.5
Money line: Penn State (-167 to -182); Purdue (+125 to +150)
Over/Under: 53.5-to 54.0.

Penn State has been the favorite by at least a field goal since the line came out in late May. The spread hasn’t fluctuated much though it has gone as high as 4.0-to-4.5 points depending on the sportsbook.

The money line has also been pretty steady, never going below -150 for PSU or above +155 for Purdue, although the lowest for the Boilermakers was +125. The over/under has changed between +0.5 to 1.0 points, depending on the sportsbook. It started as high as 54.5 points and as low as 52.5 points.

Betting Trends

Penn State Nittany Lions

  • Nittany Lions are 9-2 ATS in their last 11 games in September.
  • Nittany Lions are 9-4 ATS in their last 13 conference games.
  • Nittany Lions are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games on grass.
  • Nittany Lions are 2-4 ATS in their last 6 games against an opponent in the West Division division.
  • Under is 6-1 in Nittany Lions’ last 7 games overall.
  • Under is 5-1 in Nittany Lions’ last 6 conference games.
  • Under is 5-1 in Nittany Lions’ last 6 games in September.
  • Under is 5-1 in Nittany Lions’ last 6 games on grass.
  • Under is 12-3 in Nittany Lions’ last 15 road games.

Purdue Boilermakers

  • Boilermakers are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 games on grass.
  • Boilermakers are 5-1 ATS in their last 6 games overall.
  • Boilermakers are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 conference games.
  • Boilermakers are 3-6 ATS in their last 9 home contests.
  • Over is 4-1 in Boilermakers’ last 5 games overall.
  • Over is 4-1 in Boilermakers’ last 5 games on grass.
  • Over is 4-0 in Boilermakers’ last 4 home games.
  • Over is 5-2 in Boilermakers’ last 7 Week 1 games.
  • Under is 4-0 in Boilermakers’ last 4 games in September.

Prediction

I truly believe this game is a pick’em. Both squads enter the new season with top 25 hopes as each team has lots of returnees and is led by a veteran quarterback. Neither team has much of a running game, and while each defensive unit is highly thought of, there are questions on that side as well.

I see that controlling the line of scrimmage and the tempo of the game are the two biggest keys for this contest. I also believe that winning the battle of field position via special teams, converting on third down, and winning the turnover battle will also be vitally important.

However, I am going with Penn State to win the opener. The Nittany Lions have been pretty good in season-opening games recently and in season-openers on the road throughout their history. Plus, the Lions are the more talented team overall, and they will at least try to establish the run – which goes along with my No. 1 key of controlling the line of scrimmage and tempo of play.

I also like PSU’s secondary and linebacking corp a little better than Purdue’s. In addition, the Lions’ defense will likely be extra aggressive with Diaz calling the plays, which could lead to turnovers for the Boilermakers – who lost 11 fumbles and had 11 passes intercepted. Diaz was known for the turnover chain as the Hurricanes’ head coach.

Best Bet: Penn State (-3.5)
Confidence of pick: 3.0

Other Bet: Under 53.5 points.

I was going with this as my top pick, but there is just so much unknown about each defense. Also, both quarterbacks can sling it and will have every opportunity to do so, particularly O’Connell.

Confidence of pick: 1.5

 


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