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Penn State vs. Michigan odds, prediction: Can the Nittany Lions cover the spread on the road?

The Wolverines are a 6.5-point favorite against the Nittany Lions

Sean Clifford of the Penn State Nittany Lions attempts a pass against the Northwestern Wildcats during the second half at Beaver Stadium on October 1, 2022 in State College, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
Sean Clifford of the Penn State Nittany Lions attempts a pass against the Northwestern Wildcats during the second half at Beaver Stadium on October 1, 2022 in State College, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)Read moreScott Taetsch / Getty Images

The best slate of the College Football season has arrived.

Not only are there three games featuring two teams ranked inside the Top 13 in the AP Rankings, but Week 7 features the most games between undefeated teams in the Top 25 since 1993. Separation Saturday has arrived.

One of the headliners on Saturday is a noon kickoff between No. 5 Michigan (6-0) and No. 10 Penn State (5-0) at the Big House in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines are a 6.5-point favorite with the Over/Under currently sitting at 50.5 points.

Michigan vs. Penn State Prediction: Pick

Michigan -6.5 (FanDuel)

Michigan vs. Penn State Prediction: Analysis

One of the first things that jumps out at you when you’re handicapping this matchup is that it’s pretty hard to get a true gauge of where Michigan’s level is this season. Sure, the Wolverines are 6-0 and their statistical profile is terrific, but their schedule so far has seen them play Colorado State, Hawaii, UConn, Maryland, Iowa and Indiana. You can only beat the teams on your schedule, but it is worth considering the quality of competition for the Wolverines when you look at under the hood.

When you look at Penn State’s schedule, a couple of early season games jump out immediately. The Nittany Lions opened the season with a 35-31 true road win at Purdue and then went to The Plains and rolled Auburn, 41-12, two weeks later. But knowing what we now know about Purdue and Auburn, it’s hard to know how much to weigh those victories, especially since Penn State ended up with a +8 turnover differential.

Penn State’s other three wins came in a blowout against Ohio, a 19-point showing over Central Michigan and a 10-point victory against Northwestern. Penn State failed to cover in the latter two contests, though the Northwestern game took place in insane weather.

The reality is that both of these teams probably have some inflated metrics, but stylistically this matchup should favor Michigan.

» READ MORE: College football underdog picks: Best bets for Week 7

After losing Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo to the NFL, there were a lot of skeptics wondering if this Michigan defense would be able to create enough pressure to rank among the elites in college football. So far, the Wolverines have passed that test. Michigan ranks 21st in pass rushing this season and should have an edge over Penn State’s offensive line, which ranks 55th in pass blocking. And even if Sean Clifford does have time in the pocket, the Wolverines are the nation’s seventh-best coverage team and best tackling team, per Pro Football Focus.

That should slow down a Penn State offense that ranks outside the top-70 in passing success rate.

The Nittany Lions offense also ranks outside the top-70 in rushing success rate, which is the weakest point of the Wolverines defense. Michigan ranks 40th in that category, but is 11th in defensive passing success rate.

When Penn State has the ball, the numbers point to an edge for Michigan. But the margins are pretty tight when the script is flipped. That said, the Wolverines offense, which ranks 13th in rushing success rate, 25th in passing success rate and 15th in finishing drives, will represent a major step up in class for this impressive Penn State unit.

The one area for concern for Penn State is that the Nittany Lions rank 114th in tackle grading, per PFF, and with Michigan’s ability to create explosiveness on the ground and through the air, we could see the Wolverines get margin by ripping off big plays.

If you take away home-field advantage, this line would be sitting around 3.5 points on a neutral field. As impressive as Penn State has been to start the season, that seems a tad low. Anything at -7 or better is worth a dabble on the Wolverines.

» READ MORE: Full sports betting coverage from The Philadelphia Inquirer

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