Penn State Football: Can Nittany Lions Snap 37-Year Title Drought?

Penn State Football: Can Nittany Lions Snap 37-Year Title Drought?
Fact Checked by Jim Tomlin

It has been a roller coaster ride of a season for the Penn State Nittany Lions’ football team as well as their backers with Pennsylvania sports betting sites. Last week’s 20-12 loss against Ohio State derailed what was a fast start to the season.

Fresh off that road loss to the No. 3-ranked Buckeyes in Columbus, the Nittany Lions are tasked with playing unranked Indiana on Saturday in State College before heading to College Park to play Maryland the following week.

Should the James Franklin-led collective upset No. 2 Michigan at Beaver Stadium on Nov. 11, there’s still a chance Penn State could eke into the Big Ten title game, perhaps snapping the program’s current seven-year conference championship drought.

Can Penn State Make 2023 CFP?

Whether the Nittany Lions can clinch the conference or not, Penn State enters the last weekend of October squarely in the mix for a 2023 College Football Playoff berth. Penn State sits No. 10 in the latest Associated Press top 25 poll; the first CFP rankings come out on Halloween night.

With the right mixture of good play and good fortune, Penn State could still pull of the program’s first national title since 1986. Oddsmakers from Caesars Pennsylvania Sportsbook give the Nittany Lions +4000 national title odds, with 10 teams above them as of Friday afternoon.

Ahead of Penn State’s game against the Hoosiers at noon Eastern on Saturday, wanted to break down how the Nittany Lions can snap their four-decade title drought.

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What Lies Between Penn State & CFP Berth?

Thanks to losing to Ohio State last week, Penn State likely needs the Buckeyes to falter down the stretch to even qualify for the conference title game. That means PSU must take care of business at home against the Wolverines in mid-November, with Michigan returning the favor in the Big Game against Ohio State on Nov. 25 to close the regular season.

Right now, Penn State sits third in the Big Ten East standings at 3-1, 1.5 games behind Michigan (5-0) and half a game back of Ohio State (4-0), with five games to play for the Nittany Lions. The BetMGM Pennsylvania Sportsbook has PSU at +1400 odds to win the Big Ten title.

If the Nittany Lions run the table and finish the year 11-1, they’d sit at 7-1 in Big Ten play. That would open up a tiebreaker scenario with either the Buckeyes or Wolverines (or both, should Michigan beat Ohio State for a third straight season). From there, a win in the Big Ten title game would virtually guarantee Penn State its first ever CFP appearance, where they’d have to win two games to bring home the program’s first national title since that golden 1986 season.

Short of that, the loss to Ohio State makes a win over Michigan a near-must for PSU, and those riding with the team at PA sportsbook apps, to make the four-team field this year. This is the last year of the four-team playoff; the CFP expands to 12 teams next year.

How Likely Is A 5-0 Finish For Penn State?

This Saturday, Penn State is listed as a 32-point favorite over Indiana by Caesars Sportsbook Pennsylvania. And ESPN’s Football Power Index gives the Nittany Lions an 83.1% chance of beating Maryland on Nov. 4, a 50% shot at upsetting Michigan, a 93.7% shot at holding court against Rutgers and a 95% chance of taking care of business against Michigan State to close the year. So those using PA sports betting promotions to sign up will probably lean heavily toward the Nittany Lions in all games except perhaps Michigan.

With no less than a puncher’s chance against their next five opponents, it’s not out of the question that Penn State finishes the year 11-1. That would be their best regular season finish since 2008, when the team was 11-1 before losing the Rose Bowl to USC, 38-24.

Fast forward 15 years and the Nittany Lions once again are still in prime position to make their way to Indianapolis for the conference title game, though it’ll take a win over the Wolverines combined with some help from Jim Harbaugh and company in the Big Ten’s biggest annual rivalry game.

As for Saturday against Indiana, FanDuel Pennsylvania Sportsbook has PSU listed as 31.5-point favorites against the 2-5 Hoosiers.

With the right results, Franklin and company can take Penn State to heights not seen in State College since the second term of the Reagan administration, with a chance to get the Nittany Lions back atop the sport for the first time since the mid 1980s.



Christopher Boan has been covering sports and sports betting for more than seven years, including stops at, the Tucson Weekly and the Green Valley News.

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