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Penn State Nittany Lions Football Team Preview 2019: Odds and Predictions

Written by: Andre Viljoen
Updated October 14, 2022
5 min read

2018 Season in Review

The 2018 Nittany Lions entered the season with high hopes for a Big Ten title. A close shave against Appalachian State in the opener gave James Franklin’s team a wake-up call, leading to three straight victories with an average winning margin of 45.7 points. A 27-26 home loss to Ohio State put a damper on things before Penn State got swept by the Michigan schools.

Quarterback Trace McSorley would cap off his college career as the school’s leader in major passing stat categories, while also closing the regular season with a three-game win streak to finish 9-3. Unfortunately, his team would fall short to an upstart Kentucky program in the Citrus Bowl, losing 27-24 in Orlando.

Key Returning Players (2018 Stats)

  • WR K.J. Hamler (Redshirt Sophomore) – 42 Receptions | 754 Rec Yards | 5 Rec TD
  • TE Pat Freiermuth (Sophomore) – 26 Receptions | 368 Rec Yards | 8 Rec TD
  • DT Robert Windsor (Redshirt Senior) – 38 Total Tackles | 10.0 TFL | 6.5 Sacks
  • S Garrett Taylor (Redshirt Senior) – 71 Total Tackles | 2.5 TFL | 3 INT

Whoever takes over at quarterback will have big shoes to fill, whether it may be redshirt sophomore Sean Clifford, redshirt freshman Will Levis, or true freshmen Ta’Quan Roberson and Michael Johnson Jr. There could be some growing pains on offense in State College, as the skill positions are dominated by underclassmen. Sophomore running back Ricky Slade is expected to be the lead back, while K.J. Hamler, Jahan Dotson, and Pat Freiermuth are slated as the top receiving options.

On the flip side of the coin, the defense is more of a certainty, with leading tacklers Micah Parsons and Jan Johnson holding down the linebacking unit. Garrett Taylor will be patrolling center field as a safety, with fellow fifth-year senior John Reid slotting in at the corner. Robert Windsor will hold down the defensive line with fellow classmate Antonio Shelton, while pass rusher Yetur Gross-Matos should be disruptive in the backfield, assuming he returns from suspension.

Key Departures

  • QB Trace McSorley (Graduation)
  • RB Miles Sanders (NFL Draft)
  • OG Connor McGovern (NFL Draft)
  • DE Shareef Miller (NFL Draft)

Year after year, Penn State produces NFL quality talent, and this offseason’s batch was no different. The Nittany Lions lost their biggest offensive threat not named Trace McSorley in running back Miles Sanders, who went to the Philadelphia Eagles in the second round. Interior offensive linemen Connor McGovern and Ryan Bates are also gone, with the former going to the Dallas Cowboys in the third round.

The defense also took a hit, as linemen Shareef Miller and Kevin Givens elected to not return for a fifth year, while defensive backs Amani Oruwariye and Nick Scott ran out of eligibility.

Notable Recruits (Star Ratings and Rankings According to Rivals.com)

  • RB Noah Cain – 4 Star | 5-10, 209lb | IMG Academy | Bradenton, FL
  • OLB Brandon Smith – 4 Star | 6-3, 225lb | Louisa County HS | Mineral, VA
  • OG Caedan Wallace – 4 Star | 6-5, 291lb | Hun School | Princeton, NJ
  • WR John Dunmore – 4 Star | 6-1, 180lb | Chaminade Madonna HS | Hollywood, FL

Given the success of Saquon Barkley in college and the NFL, getting running back recruits to PSU has been far from a challenge. Coach Franklin was able to add to his running back stable with the additions of Noah Cain and Devyn Ford, who both rank in the top five at their position.

The Nittany Lions also managed to add some offensive line depth with the additions of regional recruits Caedan Wallace from New Jersey and Saleem Wormley from Delaware. Finally, Penn State looks to hold on to their “Linebacker U” nickname, as they added Brandon Smith, the third-ranked linebacker in the 2019 class.

2019 Schedule

Date Opponent
August 31st Idaho
September 7th Buffalo
September 14th Pittsburgh
September 27th @ Maryland
October 5th Purdue
October 12th @ Iowa
October 19th Michigan
October 26th @ Michigan State
November 9th @ Minnesota
November 16th Indiana
November 23rd @ Ohio State
November 30th Rutgers

Although the schedule should not prevent Penn State from becoming bowl eligible in Franklin’s sixth year, it does not come without challenges. The big tests will come against the schools who beat them last year in Ohio State, Michigan, and Michigan State. Beating the Buckeyes at the Shoe will be hard to pull off, as will taking down Sparty in East Lansing. The road trip to Iowa could also trip them up, however, having home-field advantage against Michigan could be a difference-maker.

Where to Bet on Conference Title Odds Win Totals in New Jersey

New Jersey residents can log on to 888Sport to wager on Penn State’s Big Ten East Division odds, as well as their win total. With an over/under of 8.5 wins and a schedule with lots of questions, it’s a tough call to say how their season will turn out.

Big Ten East Division

Sportsbook Penn State Link
888Sport NJ +800

* 21+ | NJ only | If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, call 1-800-GAMBLER

Number of Games Won – Excluding Bowl Games & Play-Offs

Regular season only. Conference championship games do not count.

Sportsbook Over 8.5 Under 8.5 Link
888Sport NJ -110 -110

* 21+ | NJ only | If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, call 1-800-GAMBLER

Check out our college football section for more team previews. 

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Andre Viljoen

College Basketball Betting Analyst

Betting Picks
Andre has been writing for WSN since February 2019, covering college basketball and college football. A graduate of Florida State and UNC-Chapel Hill, he lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. When he is not writing, he enjoys playing sports and Magic: The Gathering.
Nationality: American
Education: N/A
Favourite Sportsbook: Borgata Sportsbook
Favourite Casino: PlayStar Casino
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