Without considering the circumstances, Bill O’Brien has done a masterful job coaching his first team at Penn State. When considering the unfathomable turmoil and negativity that has engulfed the campus for the past year, there is no overstating the sensational work he has done.
The Nittany Lions have been dynamite on the road, compiling a 4-0 record against the spread. In three Big Ten road games, they have outscored their opponents by an average of 35.7-10.
Before O’Brien arrived, Matt McGloin was a mediocre college quarterback. Under O’Brien’s tutelage, McGloin has turned into one of the league’s best at the position. He has thrown 18 touchdown passes and three interceptions.
Nebraska is 7-2 straight up, but it has had to rally to victory with fourth-quarter comebacks against Wisconsin, Northwestern and Michigan State. In other words, the Cornhuskers are a few plays from being 4-5.
I made Nebraska a 5½-point home favorite over Penn State today. With the line at 8½ at most books, I’m all over the Nittany Lions catching more than a touchdown in a game they have a better-than-decent chance of winning outright.
Three more plays for today (home team in CAPS):
■ Northwestern (+10) over MICHIGAN – The Wildcats had two weeks to prepare for this test, and it doesn’t hurt that Wolverines quarterback Denard Robinson isn’t expected to play because of an elbow injury.
At 7-2 straight up and 8-1 ATS, Northwestern conceivably could be unbeaten. In both losses, it allowed fourth-quarter leads to get away at Penn State and against Nebraska. Dating to 2008, the Wildcats own a 11-4 ATS record as a road underdog. This line is too high, and I’m not opposed to bettors getting a small taste of the ‘dog on the money line (risk $100 to win $320).
■ SOUTH CAROLINA (-13½) over Arkansas – Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier has had two weeks to prepare for this huge revenge game. The Razorbacks beat up on the Gamecocks by scores of 33-16, 41-20 and 44-28 the past three years.
However, nothing about this season resembles the past three years for the Razorbacks, who are 4-5 straight up with their wins coming against Jackson State, Auburn, Kentucky and Tulsa. Arkansas already had issues defensively, but it now is playing without three starters lost to injuries.
Although South Carolina has lost star running back Marcus Lattimore, it went 5-1 after he suffered a knee injury last season. Give Kenny Miles, a fifth-year senior, credit for much of that success.
Razorbacks quarterback Tyler Wilson isn’t the same player he was when throwing for 24 touchdowns and six interceptions last year. Wilson has been picked off eight times. Behind the play of Miles and quarterback Connor Shaw, in addition to a defense that will force Wilson into mistakes, South Carolina should win by more than two touchdowns.
■ Louisiana-Lafayette (+27) over FLORIDA – The Gators have scored more than 27 points in only four of their nine games. With a kickoff time of 9:20 a.m. in Florida, the thinking here is “The Swamp” won’t have its normal pop. The Gators have completed their Southeastern Conference slate and could be lacking motivation against a Sun Belt opponent.
Lafayette won 40-24 at Louisiana-Monroe last week. The Ragin’ Cajuns have an athletic quarterback in Terrance Broadway, who threw for 373 yards and four touchdowns against the Warhawks.
Last week: 4-0 against the spread
Brian Edwards of VegasInsider.com and BrianEdwardsSports.com is providing college football analysis for the Las Vegas Review-Journal.