Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Sunday, November 13, 2016 at 9:43 PM
On Saturday morning, if you wanted to bet Penn State to win the Big Ten title, a 65-1 price was waiting for you. Those odds have dropped sharply in the wake of Saturday’s chaos. ESPN’s FPI index now has the Nittany Lions with a 46% chance to win the Eastern Division. They’re given about a 19% chance to win the Big Ten Championship Game. The only place real money is left in the futures market is to take a shot with Penn State to win it all, where they’re 50-1.
It was Michigan’s loss at Iowa that changed the landscape. Savvy futures players have always been aware that the Lions only needed one real miracle—a Michigan loss prior to the finale at Ohio State—to make that longshot price a possibility. Now, if the Wolverines lose again in Columbus and Penn State wins out, it creates a two-way tie atop the East between the Lions and Buckeyes...and it’s Penn State who has the head-to-head win on October 22.
On Penn State’s end the only remaining games are at Rutgers and at home against disappointing Michigan State. It’s with good reason that they are now considered the most likely to team to represent the Eastern Division in the Big Ten title game in Indianapolis.
Even though the futures price may have been drastically cut, the upside is that Penn State actually winning the Big Ten crown is a realistic possibility. But that makes a presumption that the Lions can get it done in the field against presumably Wisconsin in a conference championship game. And that they can take care of business these next two weeks.
It’s not at all clear that Penn State is good enough. On the downside, the Lions defense only ranks 53rd in the country. They’ve been carved up for 40-plus points by both Pitt and Michigan in their two losses. Garrett Sickles is a terrific defensive end that can pressure a quarterback and disrupt the running game, but this is a D that will need to make a lot more plays than it has in big games.
Penn State’s biggest win, the 24-21 victory over Ohio State on October 22 was a thrilling game, but college football bettors can’t overlook that the Buckeyes mostly outplayed the Lions. It was a blocked field goal being returned for a touchdown that tipped the game Penn State’s way. It’s with good reason that the market remains skeptical about Penn State’s ability to win a conference championship game and why at this point, touching the 50-1 price for the national championship seems a bit too soon.
But on the positive side, PSU has one of the great playmakers on the offensive side of the ball. Saquon Barkley is the best back in the Big Ten. He’s rushed for 1115 yards already, can catch the ball out of the backfield and the creative running schemes of head coach James Franklin help create the space for Barkley to operate. Trace McSorley is a little rough around the edges at quarterback, but he’s getting better and can get the ball downfield.
Those that invested in Penn State prior to Saturday are feeling good about themselves right now. Now it’s time to shift focus and find out how high these Lions can actually climb.