Week 3 College Football Parlay: Penn State Travels to Auburn

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Sean Clifford #14 of the Penn State Nittany Lions reacts before the game against the Ohio Bobcats. Scott Taetsch/Getty Images/AFP.

Top-rated sportsbooks have released their NCAAF odds for this week’s college football action. One game, in particular, interests me as worth investing in:

  • Penn State vs. Auburn

For reasons that I will explain, you should play both spread and total for this game. Feel free to parlay both bets at top sportsbooks in order to maximize your profit.

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Penn State Nittany Lions vs. Auburn Tigers

Saturday, September 17, 2022 – 03:30 PM EDT at Jordan-Hare Stadium

Last Year's Game 

Last season, these teams played at Penn State. The Nittany Lions won 28-20. The key feature of Penn State's victory was its superior pass attack.

Despite, at the time, being early in his first season under a new offensive coordinator (Mike Yurcich), Sean Clifford put up great numbers in this game.

Clifford completed 28 of 32 pass attempts for 280 passing yards, two touchdowns, and one interception Certainly, what stands out is Clifford's ridiculously high completion percentage. Auburn's pass defense struggled to limit his efficiency. Doing so was a common issue for the Tigers. 

By season's end, they ranked 95th at limiting the opponent's pass efficiency. Opponents completed 64.13% of their passes, but they also ranked 98th at limiting opposing passing yardage.

This Year's Auburn Secondary 

It was simply too easy for quarterbacks to complete passes against Auburn's secondary. Even before this season began, the Tigers looked prone to suffering this same problem given the changes in personnel that they underwent in the offseason.

Specifically, the secondary regressed personnel-wise in losing two key starters. Cornerback Roger McCreary was selected in the second round of the NFL Draft.

While McCreary is now a Tennessee Titan, safety Smoke Monday now plays for the New Orleans Saints.

Results So Far

Auburn's results so far must create grave concern for this game. So far, the Tigers are 2-0 because they faced very soft competition in the form of Mercer and San Jose State, although they beat San Jose State by eight after being favored by 24 points.

Both opposing quarterbacks, certainly qualitatively inferior to what Penn State has to offer, had strong performances.

Mercer's was 21-for-36 for 197 yards, 2 touchdowns, and no interceptions while San Jose State's was 24-for-40 for 275 yards, which was almost his best stat line of the season even though his team played Portland State in Week 1.

Coverage Issues 

Generally, soft coverage seems to be an issue for the Tiger secondary.

In yielding too great a cushion to opposing wide receiver, Auburn's secondary makes itself vulnerable to the short passing game, allowing opposing wide receivers to find a rhythm with their quarterback in progressing downfield.

Deep completions are an issue, too, with Auburn's current batch of defensive backs trying to situate themselves in a defense headed by a new coordinator (Jeff Schmedding) while struggling to avoid individual mistakes that have nothing to do with learning new concepts.

Sean Clifford and Company

Whereas Auburn's already struggling pass defense undergoes significant upheaval in terms of personnel while adjusting to a new defensive coordinator, Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford enjoys continuity.

Though still early, Clifford is enjoying, statistically speaking, the best season of his career. Clifford has shown instant chemistry with transfer Mitchell Tinsley.

After amassing 1,402 yards and 14 touchdowns for Western Kentucky, he has 111 passing yards and two touchdowns. Plus, Clifford can count of his second-and third-leading receivers from last year, Parker Washington and KeAndre Lambert-Smith.

Auburn's Pass Attack 

This year, Auburn's pass attack regresses qualitatively with playmaker Bo Nix having transferred to Oregon. Not that Nix approached greatness from the pocket, Auburn's options at quarterback are extremely unsteady as passers.

TJ Finley, a transfer from LSU, was the Tigers' starting quarterback for their season opener versus Mercer. While he enjoyed a positive pair of opening drives, his inconsistency surfaced when he threw two interceptions.

In both plays, Finley showed narrow vision. He locked onto his target while failing to recognize the presence of an opposing safety. Finley is competing with Robby Ashford for the starting position.

The freshman, too, has significant issues with completing passes, unlike Clifford. So far, despite the softness of Auburn's competition, he is completing 5 of 10 passes for 101 yards and an interception.

Penn State's Secondary 

Its defensive backs form a strength of Penn State's defense. Most prominently, cornerback Joey Porter Jr. is a former All-Big Ten third-team selection while safety Ji'Ayir Brown was named an All-Big Ten third-teamer after accumulating six interceptions, tied for most in the nation. 

So far, Penn State ranks 18th nationally at limiting the opponent's passing rate, which is a more accurate statistic because it is trivially true that they've allowed a lot of passing yards since their first opponent was an extremely pass-heavy Purdue.

Penn State's qualitative edge in its secondary complements that in its pass attack. With a much easier time moving the ball downfield via its pass attack, Penn State will win this game in convincing fashion.

Parlay Verdict 

Auburn might be able to compete with Penn State at first because the Nittany Lions rush defense doesn't match up with its pass defense. The Nittany Lions lack proven ability especially in their linebacking group where they also lack depth.

Although their run defense ranked 24th last year, the Nittany Lions have not been tested by a strong ground game and will worsen in this category. Running is what Auburn does well, it ranks 26th in rushing yards per game, and its ability to run will be magnified by the scrambling threat posed especially by Ashford.

Ashford will presumably see action in this game, and he'll be undeterred by a Penn State pass rush that, ranking 106th in sack rate, continues to have problems reaching the quarterback.

Even​ when Penn State's ability to move downfield with short and long passes separates it from an Auburn offense whose lack of passing will lead to failed third down conversion attempts and thus to failures to sustain drives, the Tigers' offense can still count on a few big plays from scrambling out of the pocket to help the total exceed the posted total.

For the above reasons, I recommend parlaying the Nittany Lions ATS with the "over" as your NCAAF pick.

Be sure to use our trusty parlay calculator for your parlay betting needs.

  • Penn State -3 (-102)
  • Over 48 (-110)

NCAAF Pick: Two-Legged Parlay (+278) at BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review)

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Two-Legged Parlay (+278)
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*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.