Week One College Football Picks: Syracuse Orange at Penn State Nittany Lions

zach zwinak-penn-state-2013Syracuse-Penn St
Time: 3:30 PM ET, Aug 31 2013
Spread: PS -8.5
M/L: PS -340, SYR +280
O/U: 51.5

Odds courtesy of 5dimes

Bill O’Brien became the official mess cleaner-upper, and he won 2012 Coach of the Year for it. O’Brien guided the Nittany Lions to an 8-4 record amidst the scandal. The team lost their first two games but rallied afterwards to win eight of their next 10. The problem is how to sustain this success with fewer scholarships to give out, due to the sanctions.

The team will have a turnover at QB and chose to go with true freshman Christian Hackenburg. He’ll get the nod at starter for week one, but has a tenuous hold on the job with JUCO transfer Tyler Fergeson and Steven Bench waiting in the wings. Hackenburg has a talented receiving corp that includes Allen Robinson, TE Kyle Carter and Brandon Moseby-Felder.

Zach Zwinak is the primary ball carrier and rushed for 1,000-plus last year. The OL returns three starters, too, so Zwinak and Hackenburg should find their blocking adequate at least.

The Lions lost a lot on defense, and special teams could be a problem, too. Junior field goal kicker Sam Flicken hasn’t converted beyond 38 yards and their punter Alex Butterworth averages just 37.4 yards per punt.

Syracuse finished 8-5 last season and begins the 2013 schedule with some tough games against ranked opponents. Scott Shafer takes over as a first year coach and he has no experience as a head coach. He served as defensive coordinator for the entire tenure of former coach Doug Marrone, though, so he should know how to keep his strategy intact, at best.

The Orange don’t have the talent to push Clemson or Florida State in the ACC, and their QB position is in controversy. The team could return to bowl play, but it has a lot of question marks at important starting positions, so Shafer will look to this game as a chance to experiment against a tougher opponent. College football oddsmakers favor Penn State by over a touchdown, and that seems right given PSU’s 14 returning starters and fresh mindset towards a football season not plagued by scandal. This is a team that could easily cover the spread and be even better than last year, beginning with Syracuse.


9-1-1 ATS in last 11 overall, OVER 7-1 last 8 overall, OVER 4-1 last 5 on turf.


OVER 4-0 in last 4 on turf. 4-0 ATS in last 4 non-conf. 4-0 ATS in last 4 overall.

Check out Maddux Sports’ season pick plans for the 2013 College football season!

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