Week 1 College Football Odds, Picks: Kent State Golden Flashes vs. Penn State Nittany Lions

Christian Hackenberg (pictured) graduated and PSU will turn to Trace McSorley to replace him at QB.
Christian Hackenberg (pictured) graduated and PSU will turn to Trace McSorley to replace him at QB.

Kent St-Penn St
Time: 3:30 PM
Spread: PEN -22
M/L: PEN -1800, KEN +1150
Total: 44.5

Betting odds c/o 5dimes

Kent State

The Kent State Golden Flashes finished with a 3-9 mark last season, falling in its final five games including being banked two of those by Ohio and Akron. The Flashes averaged just 13.1 points and 270.8 yards per game last year, ranking No. 127 and No. 126 among FBS schools, manifesting utter futility at times—and in need of vast improvement in 2016.

The offensive line does return five starters and the offense returns 10 total, so the Flashes should be able to build on something, even if the team only scored 19 TDs and seven FGs the entire season. Sophomore RB Raekwon James rushed for 332 yards in limited duty, and there are other playmakers around him to make it work. Runningbacks Nick Holley, Justin Rankin and Myles Washington all will play big roles, and there are a host of good young receivers on the roster, too.

The QB position will be manned by three players initially as they try to settle a bit of controversy. George Bollas, Mylik Mitchell and Justin Agner will all see Week 1 snaps, and there has been no clear-cut winner at the position thus far. Bolas is the most experienced and best candidate to lead the spread offense, but whomever wins the role will have a good OL protecting him and the Flashes should improve with three strong options in the unit in Reno Reda, Brock Macaulay and Wayne Scott.

Defensively, the Flashes allowed 26.1 points and 350.1 yards per game last season, ranking No. 58 and No. 27 in the nation. The defense returns seven starters, too, with plenty of experience and a defense which finished third in the MAC in total defense in 2015.

Kent State did have an issue with allowing big plays, but the secondary should be vastly improved this season with CB Demetrius Monday and S Nate Holley returning to lead the unit as All-Conference performers last season.

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Kent State has had a rough last few seasons, but is fully capable of grinding out more wins than it did in last season’s three-win debacle. The defense can build on a good season, and the OL is going to power an offense that is not as bad as pundits think. The QB controversy is a minor issue that will have to be worked through, but the Flashes are fully capable of .500 ball this season, even if it is 22-point dogs this week in Week 1.

Penn State

Trace McSorley will be the starting QB for the Penn State Nittany Lions, who finished the Christian Hackenberg era 7-6 last season. McSorley completed 23 of 27 passes in the Blue-White game in April, for 281 yards and four TDs playing with the first team offense. McSorley is good throwing in the pocket and on the move, and new OC Joe Moorhead will utilize a no-huddle offense with him this season.

At RB, PSU has Saquon Barkley, who set a Penn State freshman record with 1,076 yards last season. WR Chris Godwin caught 69 passes for 1,101 yards, which was No. 2 all-time in school history.

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Penn State has a lot of depth a WR, with returning starters DaeSean Hamilton and Saeed Blacknall both bringing experience and plenty of talent. On the OL, four starters return, Andrew Nelson, Paris Palmer, Brian Gaia and Brendan Mahon. All four shifted positions during spring, with Nelson and Palmer swapping sides and Gaia moving to the center.

Mahon moved from T to G. The offense does have a new coordinator this season and a new QB, and that will require adjustment for everyone. PSU also allowed 39 sacks last season, so its returning lineman need to improve on their own merits, too, of course.

Penn State has some talent at the skill positions of its offense, but it needs a lot better protection from its OL. Last season, Penn State averaged just 23.2 points and 348.6 total yards per game, ranking No. 101 and No. 105 in the nation.

Those figures were just enough for a middling season given the strength of its defense, but PSU also has to force more turnovers after finishing just +4 and only having a +1.4 point differential on top of it. .500 ball. Week 1 should be a big chance at a smashing victory to start the 2016 season, though. The Nittany Lions should have no problems disposing of Kent State as heavy favorites.

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