The Penn State Nittany Lions are set to face the Arkansas Razorbacks this weekend. Check out our college football odds series, which includes our Penn State-Arkansas prediction, odds, and pick.
This 2022 Outback Bowl is the first-ever meeting between the two schools. They were regular parts of big bowl games from the late 1960s through the late 1980s, but their paths never crossed. Now they get to test themselves against each other on January 1, something college football odds analysts are going to enjoy in Tampa.
Penn State was ranked in the top five of the polls, but then quarterback Sean Clifford got injured in a game at Iowa. Penn State started that Iowa game well, but the Clifford injury undeniably had a major effect on the trajectory of that contest. The Nittany Lions did not have a solid No. 2 quarterback on their roster. Iowa was able to smother Penn State's offense the rest of the game and score a comeback win. Ever since that turning point, Penn State hasn't been the same since, losing four more games to finish with a 7-5 record. The Nittany Lions played Michigan, the eventual Big Ten champion and a College Football Playoff team, very closely, but a defensive breakdown and offensive ineptitude in the fourth quarter led to a narrow loss. Penn State concluded its regular season by losing to Michigan State in a snow game. PSU's worst loss of the season, however, was that unforgettable nine-overtime loss to Illinois in which the Nittany Lions managed only 18 points, with Clifford being banged up again behind a struggling offensive line. Coach James Franklin knows he needs a major offensive line upgrade in 2022. This game against Arkansas might give him a final sense of what changes need to be made, and where.
Arkansas was 3-7 last year under first-year head coach Sam Pittman, but the Razorbacks looked very different from their 2019 season under coach Chad Morris. When considering a Penn State Arkansas prediction, keep in mind how much Arkansas has grown under Pittman. What happened in 2020 was taken to a much higher level in 2021. Arkansas went from three to eight wins, continuing a steady and significant rise in Fayetteville.
When you make your Penn State Arkansas pick, compare the quality PSU had at the start of the season to the improvement Arkansas made over the course of the year. Will the good version of Penn State show up, and will Arkansas' advancements be reflected in how they play this Outback Bowl?
Here’s how the bookmakers have set the odds:
College Football odds: Penn State-Arkansas Odds
Penn State: +2.5 (-110)
Arkansas: -2.5 (-110)
Over: 48.5 (-110)
Under: 48.5 (-110)
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Why Penn State Could Cover the Spread
The Nittany Lions have had a month to heal and prepare. You should see a better version of Sean Clifford, which immediately improves the Nittany Lions' prospects. Also, Penn State — for all of its struggles on offense — has been a steadily good defensive team under James Franklin. The Nittany Lions can count on that side of the ball to do a good job. This team is dealing with some player opt-outs for the Outback Bowl, but it still has depth and power on defense, which can win battles against Arkansas' offensive line and keep the Hogs wrapped in a blanket.
Why Arkansas Could Cover the Spread
The limitations of the Penn State offense are profound. Start there. Penn State does not have an offensive line which is likely to give Sean Clifford the protection he needs. Second, Arkansas has grown by leaps and bounds under Sam Pittman. Last year, the Hogs didn't have a bowl game. This year they do. Pittman has a track record of improving his team when he gets time to coach his players. If that process continues in the Outback Bowl, Arkansas should win.
Final Penn State-Arkansas Prediction & Pick
Arkansas under Sam Pittman is growing and evolving. Penn State under James Franklin is stagnating. Woo Pig Sooie is the better choice.
Final Penn State-Arkansas Pick: Arkansas -2.5