It's amazing how many times you can track the betting line for a college football game, and discover that when said game is finally complete the folks in Las Vegas were nearly spot on.
But Penn State's stunning 38-14 win over previously unbeaten Maryland will NOT be remembered that way. In fact, the odds-makers — who set the opening line as the Lions minus-3 and then kept moving things toward the Terps (all the way to UMD minus-3) to try to get folks to place bets on PSU — were about as wrong as wrong could be.
The thing is, the punishment Maryland (4-1, 0-1) took could have been even worse. The Lions (4-2, 2-1) did not tackle particularly well, allowed a blocked punt, had one turnover and lost arguably their best offensive lineman to an injury.
By winning in such convincing fashion heading into a well-placed mid-season bye, James Franklin's team raised the proverbial bar on expectations for the rest of the season.
Sure, it may be a little much to expect PSU to beat No. 2 Ohio State at home the week after the bye.
But it now looks like there is a chance — and we repeat, a chance — that the Lions could be favored in every other game the rest of the season. How such lines would hold up remains to be seen.
For now, we'll focus on our takes on the win over Maryland.
MAN OF THE HOUR
Maryland frustrated Penn State RB Saquon Barkley a year ago, crowding the box and limiting him to 67 yards on 20 carries in Baltimore. This year, the Terps tried the same thing. But Barkley — and the PSU offense in general — showed patience. He erupted for a career-high 202 yards on 31 carries. This kind of epitomized the way the entire PSU offense imposed its will on UMD.
VERY CLOSE SECOND
QB Trace McSorley seems to get better every game, which is key when a team is breaking in a new offense. Saturday, he gave the Terps fits, rushing for 113 yards and a score (not counting minus-32 yards for sacks and an intentional grounding call) and hitting on 10 of 19 passes for 152 yards and two TDs. It is no coincidence that Barkley's numbers improved once McSorley proved he could burn opponents on the ground.
Penn State was credited with 79 tackles, so a lot of guys had a lot of stops. But we're going to give a nod to the one defender who made what we considered THE clutch play of the game, safety Malik Golden. Sure, he only had six tackles, but then there was this…
With Penn State leading 24-14 in the third quarter, Terp RB Lorenzo Harrison broke free down the right sideline and appeared to be on his way to a 74-yard score. But Golden never gave up, and somehow caught Harrison and dropped him at the PSU 30. The Lions ended up forcing a fourth-and-2, and when UMD went for it S Marcus Allen dumped RB Jake Funk for a five-yard loss. The Lions went on to dominate the rest of the game. But had Golden NOT made that hustling tackle, the score would have been 24-21 and Maryland would have had momentum.
Penn State deciding to beat Maryland at its own game but running the ball over and over and over again (62 carries for 372 yards). The Terps came in averaging 300 rushing yards per game, but PSU controlled the ground and the clock in this one.
• Time of possession: PSU 35:00, UMD 25:00
• The Lions posted 524 yards of total offense and averaged 6.5 yards per play.
• Maryland had only 11 first downs in the game.
• Only three different Lions caught passes — WR DeAndre Thompkins (four for 91 and a 70-yard score), TE Mike Gesicki (four for 29 and a five-yard score) and WR DaeSean Hamilton (two for 35).
Special teams' ace Nick Scott wiped out dangerous Maryland return man William Likely on a short PSU punt in the second quarter. Likely was nonchalant in fielding the punt in traffic and then paid for it. It happened right in front of the Terp bench.
WHAT'S UP WITH?
• Penn State's terrible luck with injuries continuing. This time veteran RT Andrew Nelson's right leg was rolled up on as McSorley was being sacked in the second quarter. PSU does not offer specifics on injuries. But after the game Franklin said Nelson would miss the rest of the season. See our related story at this link for more on the injury and how the Lions adjusted.
• Penn State's poor tackling. There was a lot to like about this game for the Lions' banged-up defense. But this ought to be an area of focus during the bye week.
• For the second straight week, some dope cheap-shotting PSU K Joey Julius. This week, Julius put the second-half kickoff out of bounds. After the whistle, Terp Isaiah Davis decked him. Davis was ejected for the hit. Minnesota's Jaylen Waters was ejected for an after-the-whistle hit on Julius last week.
• UMD coach DJ Durkin continuing to run starting QB Perry Hills, even after Hills took a terrific early hit from Allen and came up limping. When Hills tried a run to the middle in the second quarter, Golden squared him up in the hole. Hills looked woozy and had to leave the field. He never returned.
LOST IN THE SHUFFLE
• Making his first start at LB, former safety Koa Farmer came through with a second-quarter blindside hit of Hills that caused a fumble. DT Parker Cothren somehow missed a scoop-and-score chance, but DE Torrence Brown managed to fall on the pigskin. Nice efforts by two young Lions.
DID YOU NOTICE?
• P Daniel Pasquariello took over punting duties in the second half and had two boots for a total of 75 yards. True freshman Blake Gillikin started the game but struggled with a block and 29-yarder. Franklin said Gillikin was banged up in practice during the week.
• The starting linebackers were Manny Bowen at Mike, Farmer at Sam and Cam Brown at Will. But Brandon Smith shuffled in at Mike and actually finished with 14 tackles and an interception.
• WR Saeed Blacknall was back in uniform after missing the past four games with what appeared to be a hand injury. He saw action late in the game but did not make a catch.
• Nittany Lions out with undisclosed injuries included LB Brandon Bell, Jason Cabinda and Jake Cooper, CBs Christian Campbell and Amani Oruwariye, and WR Brandon Polk.
• The field was covered by a tarp until about 8:45 a.m., and the playing surface seemed good despite the consistent rain.
How many of the injured Lions will be able to return after the bye week?