Time: 4:30 PM EST
Spread: BC -3
Betting odds c/o Bookmaker
Penn State is beginning to show the signs of the aftermath following the Joe Paterno scandal that will fade eventually. The Nittany Lions reduction in scholarships has resulted in the team going .500 this year, with a pitiful 2-6 record in Big Ten play. Still, the Nittany Lions earned its Bowl bid and will square off against Boston College in a game NCAA football live lines show the Eagles as 3-point favorites.
Penn State kept it together this year because of its strong defense. The Lions had trouble scoring but allowed just 17.7 points per game, which helped the team finish with a plus-2.1 point differential on the season.
The Nittany Lions received very little help from its backfield, getting just 103 yards per game on the ground. The pass attack was mediocre at best, too, managing a middling 221 yards per game for an offense that resulted in 324 yards per game. It’s not even enough to win games without the strong defense that PSU assembled.
The Nittany Lions may have landed a better bowl game had the season not ended on such a sour note. PSU lost to Illinois and closed out its season with a 34-10 loss to then- No. 10 Michigan State. Its only conference wins were against lowly Temple and Indiana, though the Nittany Lions did force double-OT against a tough Ohio State team on Oct. 25. Losses to Michigan and Northwestern preceded it, games in which the Nittany Lions were outscored by an average of 14 points per game.
QB Christian Hackenberg threw for 2,606 yards this season but had just a 54 percent completion ratio. He averaged just 6.01 yards per attempt and threw nearly twice as many interceptions as TDs (15 vs. 8).
Accordingly, he barely cracked 100 on the passer rating (104). Hackenberg had solid receiving options though in DaeSean Hamilton and Geno Lewis, who combined for over 1,500 yrs on the season. Jesse James led the team in receiving TDs with three, and he was also No. 3 in total yardage with 369 on the season.
The backfield by and large was unproductive, and a lot of that lies on the coaching staff and a tendency to over-rely on the pass. Akeel Lynch and Bill Belton each carried the ball over 120 times and managed a 4.6 and 4.2 yard per attempt average, respectively. Nevertheless, PSU only scored 13 rushing TDs all season, and Belton had six of them.
Boston College finished 7-5 on the year with a 4-4 record in ACC play. The Eagles, like PSU, did it with defense. BC surrendered just 20.5 points per game this season, and its strong rush offense was enough to offset the weak pass attack and end up with a positive-5.4 point differential. On the ground, BC managed 251.8 yards per game, good for No. 14 in the nation. But its pass offense was one of the worst, only good for about 132 yards per contest.
QB Tyler Murphy regressed from his junior season last year. He threw for 56 percent completions, down from 60.5 percent last year. He nearly matched his TD total witn INTs (11, 10). Murphy was sacked 20 times and averaged just 7.23 yards per pass attempt.
One of Murphy’s best games was in the opener, a win over UMass when he threw for 173 yards on 70.8 percent for a 136.8 passer rating. He also shined in the win over Syracuse last week, as he went for 160 yards at a 76 percent ratio. Murphy is a good QB, but the Eagles have focused the recruiting efforts on the defensive end. Perhaps after further looking at this year’s struggles the Eagles focus on bringing in a few talented receivers an finding the successor to graduating Tyler Murphy.
BC: Eagles are 0-7 ATS in the last 7 games in Dec; The Under is 5-0 in the Eagles’ last 5 vs. the Big Ten; Eagles are 1-5 ATS in the last 6 Bowl games.
PSU: Nittany Lions are 5-0 ATS in the last 5 non-conference games; Nittany Lions are 1-5-2 ATS in the last 8 games after accumulating less than 275 total yards in previous game; the Under is 4-1 in the Nittany Lions’ last 5 games vs. the ACC.