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Penn State Football: Nittany Lions Open as Favorites Against USC and Wisconsin, Slight Underdog Against Ohio State

Penn State football is a comfortable favorite over West Virginia in the Nittany Lions’ season-opener but should find itself in close games against USC, Wisconsin and Ohio State, according to early Vegas betting lines recently released.

To open the year, Vegas Insider lists the Nittany Lions as 9.5-point favorites against the Mountaineers for a noon kickoff in Morgantown. The game marks the fourth time in five years that Penn State will open the season on the road, with the only loss among those coming at Indiana in overtime to start the COVID-19 impacted 2020 season.

Further along the schedule, Circa Sports, a different sports book in Vegas, recently released “Games of the Year” lines with Penn State road clashes against USC and Wisconsin both making the list, as well as the always anticipated matchup against Ohio State at Beaver Stadium. The Nittany Lions, according to Circa, are five-point favorites at USC on Oct. 12 and at Wisconsin on Oct. 26, while opening as a five-point underdog against Ohio State on Nov. 2 in State College.

As for these lines, USC is 6-4 against Penn State in the series, having never lost to the Nittany Lions in California and Penn State’s westernmost victory over the Trojans coming at the Fiesta Bowl in 1982. That being said, USC will look to replace No. 1 overall pick and Heisman-winning quarterback Caleb Williams this upcoming campaign.

Wisconsin, meanwhile, has lost five straight to Penn State and seven of the last eight meetings, although this will mark Penn State’s first clash against Badgers head coach Luke Fickell. The Nittany Lions have scored more than 24 points against the Badgers just twice in the past five meetings.

Against Ohio State, Penn State is still looking to get over the hump like it did in 2016, having lost in a variety of ways to the Buckeyes since then. In terms of the line itself, Ohio State will look to replace its starting quarterback and work in new offensive coordinator Chip Kelly, who left his head coaching job at UCLA for the assistant position in Columbus. While coming out on the losing side of most games in the series, Penn State has generally played Ohio State closely over the course of the James Franklin era. As for losing by just five points, just two games over the last seven have been decided by five or fewer points.