By Adam Rauzino
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The Penn State Nittany Lions collide with the #21 Arkansas Razorbacks in the Outback Bowl from Raymond James Stadium on New Year’s Day. The Nittany Lions finished with a 7-5 tally and went just 4-5 in Big Ten action. The Razorbacks tallied an 8-4 season record and finished with a 4-4 mark in SEC play.
Penn State Finishes Below .500 in Big Ten Play
The Penn State Nittany Lions will look to end the season with a bowl victory after a disappointing season. It was looking good early as they were a perfect 5-0 to begin the season including a win against ranked Wisconsin and Auburn squads. It was downhill going forward, going 2-5 in the last seven games. The losses were close as they fell to Michigan by only four points and Michigan State by three. They covered the spread in five of their nine Big Ten games.
Sean Clifford had a few big performances, eclipsing the 300-yard mark on four occasions but finished the year with a subpar 62% completion efficiency. The senior QB didn’t throw an INT in the final three games and has accrued 2912 passing yards accompanied by a 20:6 TD to INT ratio.
The Penn State running game isn’t a threat. They only averaged just over 100 yards. Rushing leader Keyvone Lee’s season-high was an 88-yard effort and posted a total of 495 yards. They have a big receiving threat led by Jahan Dotson who collected a remarkable 1182 yards. The senior WR will be drafted this year and won’t play in this game. The Penn State offense was frustrating at times and relied heavily on the passing offense.
The Nittany Lions defense is their greatest asset. The unit has no real flaws and contained several productive offensive units. They shut out Indiana and held Michigan to 21 points. The pass defense is ranked 34th in the FBS while the rush defense is 42nd. Penn State ranks 83rd overall with an average of 26.3 points. They allowed an average of 16.8 points, good for 71st overall.
Arkansas Looks to Conclude Stellar Year with Bowl Win
The Arkansas Razorbacks had one of their best seasons in recent memory. They won four out of their last five games of the season highlighted by wins against Mississippi State and LSU. The Razorbacks almost beat #1 Alabama as well, losing by a narrow 42-35 score on the road. This team is solid on offense and defense. They covered the points seven times this season.
KJ Jefferson is having a tremendous season. The sophomore QB tallied over 300 yards in the tough defeat against Alabama and has gone six consecutive performances without tossing an interception. Jefferson has collected 2578 passing yards accompanied by a stellar 21:3 TD to INT ratio.
This Arkansas team has several threatening tuning backs. Trelon Smith leads the way with 592 yards. They have three RB’s with at least 498 rushing yards. Penn State is outstanding defending the pass and the game plan will be to run often. The Razorbacks have one of the best WR’s in the entire SEC in Treylon Burks. The junior finished with 1104 yards but has opted out of this one. The Arkansas offense has scored over 30 points in four out of their last five games.
The Razorbacks’ defense is solid as well. The only foes they had trouble defending were against the Ole Miss Rebels and Alabama. The pass defense is outstanding which will be key against a good Nittany Lions passing game. They stand 42nd overall against the pass and 74th against the run. Arkansas is scoring an average of 31.5 points, landing them 44th in the FBS. They are allowing an average of 24 points, placing them 46th overall.
This is an intriguing matchup. Penn State had a disappointing string of games in Big Ten play and will be eager to compensate with a bowl win. They were involved in several close defeats, losing to Iowa by three points and #2 Michigan by only four. The Nittany Lions have the better defense in this clash and expect them to contain Arkansas. Razorbacks’ star WR Treylon Burks has opted out for this game in preparation for the NFL draft. This is huge as the star has over 1000 receiving yards. The next closest receiver on the team barely has over 300 yards.
Furthermore, Penn State’s QB Sean Clifford is capable of big performances. He has led the squad to the 22nd ranked passing game in the FBS. Arkansas’ pass defense is decent but can be solved, ranking 43rd in the FBS.
Prediction: Penn State Nittany Lions +2
Written By Adam Rauzino , “Adam Rauzino”
Adam has been a sports fanatic his entire life, closely following hockey, baseball, basketball, and football. He enjoys analyzing various stats, as well as studying Sabermetrics and analytics to take his picks to a whole new level. Adam has a passion for writing about various sports as well as personal finance and being an expert sports bettor. Prior to bringing his talents here to Winners and Whiners, Adam graduated with a diploma in business marketing and business finance. You would do yourself a huge favor by following Adam on a daily basis.