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Has It Always Been Penn State Spread? A Look At The Nittany Lions’ Covering Consistency

Penn State football has been undefeated against the spread since October 15, 2022, when it lost 17-41 to Michigan. This impressive streak has caused the saying “it has always been Penn State spread” to become increasingly popular in the sports betting community.  

Well, interested if this saying is accurate, we decided to investigate if it really has always been Penn State spread. To do this, we went through the last five years of college football and found five other top teams to compare Penn State to.  

Penn State football has covered every spread this year, but that hasn’t always been the case in the past. Going back to 2019, including bowl games, the Nittany Lions have played in 51 games. Within those games, they have covered the spread 32 times, giving them a cover rate of 62.7% per Cover.  

This is very impressive when compared to national averages. According to CBS Sports, NCAA football favorites have covered the spread just 49.2% of the time since 2014. Subsequently, the underdogs have covered 50.2%.   

Penn State isn’t your average team. Over the past several years, and especially in the last two, the Nittany Lions have established themselves as a top-10 program in the country. We were also interested in how they fare compared to the country’s best.  

In the Big Ten, both Ohio State and Michigan have done well since 2019 to cover but neither have outdone the Nittany Lions in the span. As stated by Covers, Ohio State has a cover rate of 53% with a record of 26-23. Michigan has done slightly better, with a record of 30-21 and a cover rate of 58.8%.  

Penn State doesn’t just cover more than the top dogs of the Big Ten — it has every other team in the conference beat as well. Since 2019, James Franklin has had his team on top of the Big Ten when it comes to covering the spread.  

College football is always evolving, and with the 12-team playoff looming over the upcoming season, we also looked at how Penn State fares against teams in other conferences. 

Our first stop was the SEC, where just like the Big Ten, not one team boasted a cover rate in the past five years better than Penn State. Two of the more notable teams, Alabama and Georgia, were no different. Alabama is 31-24 in the past five years with a 56% rate of cover and Georgia only has a record of 28-27 supplying a second-class rate of 50.9% per Covers. The closest team to Penn State, according to TeamRankings, is surprisingly Kentucky, which is just 2% behind the Nittany Lions with a 60.7% rate of cover.  

The final stop is the football team without a conference: Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish, similar to Penn State, have found a lot of success when it comes to covering the spread in recent years. Covers says Notre Dame has a record of 34-21, which puts it just below Penn State in terms of percentage, covering 61.8% of the time per Covers.  

Finding a lack of top-end teams that could out-cover Penn State, we started searching the rest of the country for more successful teams. Looking at the larger landscape of college football, only six teams in the FBS surpass Penn State in covering the spread, with only two from the Power Five conferences (Oregon State and Kansas State), according to TeamRanking’s list. 

In summary, the data suggests that the saying “it has always been Penn State spread” does hold some truth. Penn State’s consistency in covering the spread is impressive and compares favorably to teams all over the country.  

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About the Author

Collin Ward

Collin is a first-year majoring in digital/print journalism. Born in Hartford, he now lives in Basking Ridge, New Jersey. As a die-hard Chelsea FC fan you can normally find him yelling at his TV screen each weekend. To reach him, follow him on Instagram: @cward829, or email him at [email protected].

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