By Tony George
Nebraska -3.5 @ Penn State
With the national spotlight on Happy Valley, PA right now, it is not so Happy at Penn State right now. A sex Scandal with ex Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky has rocked the campus and shaken the Joe Paterno legacy down to its very core. Hidden behind the headlines is the fact that the Nittany Lions face Nebraska this weekend for a crucial game in the Big 10. Actually this game is a diversion for Penn State based on current events surrounding this program. Fortunately for Nebraska backers it is not a diversion but a crucial game after getting a beat down at home last week against Northwestern where they were dominated in a devastating loss. Penn State has a two game lead in the Leaders division of the Big 10, and are a one loss team overall.
The line opened up at Nebraska -2, and has shot up to -3.5 as of Wednesday and may climb higher before kickoff. Some Las Vegas books and offshore books have taken this game down off the board, but the standing line is slightly over a field goal. Nebraska has an opportunity for a big road win, and the Huskers have performed well on the road at 7-3 ATS (against the spread) their last 10 road games. It should be noted that Penn State is 1-8 ATS against teams with a winning record their last 9 attempts.
While Joe Paterno’s future at Penn State no longer in the balance, this surely has an affect on the team and assistant coaches and is a huge distraction. This can affect a team in one of two ways. Either the Lions show up and try and win one for the Gipper, or the lack of focus will in fact be their demise against a focused and determined Nebraska team. I think it will be the latter. This is not a distraction for Nebraska, and only adds fuel to the fire that Nebraska can use the mass confusion at Penn State to their advantage and win a game that is more or less a coin flip in terms of a side play winner on paper, especially a team off a bad loss traveling to a division leader in conference action laying points.
Neither team’s QB is a world of fire in terms of stretching the field vertically. Last week Penn State beat a solid Illinois team 10-7. Showing in the fact the strength of their team is defense, allowing just 11 ppg this season at home. Their QB McGloin was 9 for 24 for 98 yards an interception. Taylor Martinez for Nebraska is not a throwing QB, but he had a big day against Northwestern throwing and running, and hitting 28 out of 37 for 289 yards and 2 TDs and he ran for 53 yards. At day’s end the tale of the tape is simple, Nebraska’s defense is equal and perhaps better, and Nebraska’s offense is flat out better — the key in this game is who can make of the most big plays on offense and that favors the Huskers.
Nebraska is the better team here playing against stiffer teams to date, that’s why Vegas odds makers made them a small favorite. With QB Martinez’s ability to run and throw as dual threat, I am convinced with the current state of affairs at Penn State right now, Nebraska will not be affected by those distractions and Bo Pellini and his staff will take care of business and get a win here in a low scoring game. Nebraska’s defense is hungry to atone for a poor showing last week, and against an offense not all that good, they should be able to get it done, and NU’s offense is good enough to put 17-21 points on the board which in fact should cover this low number.
Lots of side stories here on a national spotlight level. At day’s end, Nebraska is in a must win scenario and determined to get back on track, and Penn State is looking for answers amidst the biggest scandal in school history. That benefits Nebraska in this matchup on Saturday.
Nebraska 21 Penn State 13 – Lay the points
Tony George for six years was the co-host of the Average Joe Sports Show in Lincoln on ESPN 1480, and hosted The Tony George Show on the same Station for seven years. Tony is widely known as one of the top sports handicappers in the nation.