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Arkansas vs Penn State Outback Bowl Picks & Betting Predictions

Dan Kilbridge for Bookies.com

Dan Kilbridge  | 5 mins

Arkansas vs Penn State Outback Bowl Picks & Betting Predictions

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Penn State and Arkansas will square off for all the bloomin’ onions to kick off a loaded New Year’s Day bowl slate at the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Florida.

The Nittany Lions couldn’t do enough to secure a spot in the Big Ten title game, but they did avoid playing coaching carousel roulette by inking coach James Franklin to a massive 10-year extension. It’s not quite a New Year’s Six bowl, but this is still a solid slot for the Big Ten-SEC matchup.

Arkansas finished the year strong, winning four of five. The lone loss might have even been the most impressive performance, with the Razorbacks taking Alabama to the brink in a 42-35 loss in Tuscaloosa.

Let’s take a deeper look into this matchup and what it means from a college football betting perspective.

All college football odds are current as of publication. Betting sites may indicate odds changes closer to kickoff.

Penn State vs. Arkansas Key Matchups

Arkansas RBs vs. Penn State Front Seven: The Razorbacks are at their best when the run game is humming. They picked up 333 rushing yards in a win over Texas, 350 in a close loss at Ole Miss and 358 against the Crimson Tide. Penn State is very solid against the run and has seen the same mentality in games against the likes of Michigan and Iowa. Slowing the Arkansas rushing attack should be priority No. 1 for the Nittany Lions.

Sean Clifford vs. Arkansas DBs: Penn State wants to throw for 300-plus every game. Big Ten opponents had a lot of success when Clifford was out due to injury, but he’s back dialed in and threw for 313 yards in a season-ending loss at Michigan State. The Razorbacks have one of the better secondaries in the SEC and this is the strength-on-strength matchup to watch when Penn State has the ball.

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4 Key Stats For Penn State vs. Arkansas

217.3: Rushing yards per game for Arkansas.

16.8: Points per game allowed by Penn State.

3.8: Average margin of defeat for Penn State in its five losses.

0: Previous matchups between the two schools.

RELATED: College Football Bowl Games Complete Betting Guide

Penn State vs. Arkansas Moneyline

Penn State was a more significant favorite on the opening line, but the Nittany Lions are now a +135 underdog. Arkansas is a slight -155 favorite.

Arkansas’ offense has slowed down in recent weeks and had less-than-average production in three of the last four games. This is a tough Penn State defense and those are the types of teams Arkansas has struggled with.

Rather than keep the rumors alive, Penn State shut it down and signed Franklin to the long-term extension entering this one. That should be a big positive for the Nittany Lions in terms of focus for bowl prep. Penn State wasn’t outclassed by anyone this season and all five losses were extremely close. We expect them to show out for the Big Ten and get it done at Raymond James Stadium.

Penn State vs. Arkansas Point Spread

The Nittany Lions opened as a -4 favorite on betting apps, but the line has flipped and now stands around Arkansas -3. The majority of spread tickets are now on Arkansas with the public expecting the Razorbacks to cover. We’re not so sure.

This is just a great matchup for Penn State. The Nittany Lions are good in the trenches and have the pieces to shut down the Razorbacks’ rushing attack. They also have the better quarterback and hung tough with every opponent this season, including a 33-24 loss to Ohio State. This should be another close one and we expect Penn State to cover and finish 8-5 both overall and against the spread this season.

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Penn State vs. Arkansas Total

The Outback Bowl total is set in the mid-to-high 40s at sportsbooks and bettors seem to love the Under. We’re going the opposite direction.

The total makes sense given the styles here and Penn State has been in its share of low-scoring shootouts, including the Under hitting in a nine-overtime loss to Illinois. But there should be more fireworks in Tampa.

Both teams have strong quarterbacks, with Arkansas’ KJ Jefferson totaling 2,578 passing yards, 21 touchdowns and three interceptions. Weather conditions should be ideal and this could be a sneaky-fun game for those expecting a grind. Our money is on the Over as one of our college football picks.

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About the Author

Dan Kilbridge for Bookies.com
Dan Kilbridge
Handicapper Dan Kilbridge writes about college football, MLB and other sports for Bookies.com after spending three years covering Tiger Woods’ comeback and the PGA for Golfweek.