Outback Bowl Picks, Predictions and Odds: Penn State vs. Arkansas

Jan. 1, 2022
Jonathan Willis
VI Betting Expert

This year's Outback Bowl features the Arkansas Razorbacks taking on the Penn State Nittany Lions. Kick off is set for an early 12:00 p.m. ET and will air on ESPN2 from Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.

Score Prediction

Arkansas 30, Penn State 23

Best Bets

Arkansas -2 (-110) at South Point

Outback Bowl Predictions

There has been a lot of line movement in the Outback Bowl. The Penn State Nittany Lions opened as four-point favorites, but the Arkansas Razorbacks are now favored as the Nittany Lions will be without five of their best defenders and star receiver Jahan Dotson. Arkansas will be without standout receiver Treylon Burks, but the rest of the Razorbacks are expected to play in this game.

This will be the first college football game of 2022, and it is the first meeting between the Penn State Nittany Lions and Arkansas Razorbacks. Penn State was originally favored, but a strong defense has a lot of questions due to the number of opt-outs for the Outback Bowl. That will allow Arkansas to win its biggest bowl game in a decade.

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Outback Bowl Betting Resources

  • Matchup: Big 10 vs. SEC
  • Date: Saturday, January 1, 2022
  • Venue: Raymond James Stadium
  • Location: Tampa, Florida
  • TV-Time: ESPN2, 12:00 p.m. ET

Penn State Nittany Lions Betting Analysis

Straight Up - SU, Against the Spread - ATS, Over-Under (O/U)

  • SU: 7-5
  • ATS: 7-5
  • O/U: 3-9

Sean Clifford announced that he would return for a sixth season three weeks ago. That gives Penn State a veteran quarterback heading into 2022, but he has yet to really improve since first winning the starting job in 2019. However, it’s not all his fault as he was sacked at least three times in five of Penn State’s last six games.

Top receiver Dotson opted out of the Outback Bowl in order to prepare for the NFL Draft. That means Clifford’s best target will be Parker Washington. Washington had 57 receptions for 722 yards and four touchdowns during the regular season. KeAndre Lambert-Smith will be the other starting receiver for Penn State.

It’s been hard for the Nittany Lions to run the ball this season. Penn State is averaging just 3.1 YPC. Keyvone Lee was the leading rusher with 495 yards and two touchdowns, and his 4.8 YPC average was much better than either Noah Cain or John Lovett.

Penn State’s defense has some major issues ahead of this game. Starting defensive linemen Derrick Tangelo and Arnold Ebiketie and safety Jaquan Brisker have opted out of the Outback Bowl along with linebackers Ellis Brooks and Brandon Smith. Defensive coordinator Brent Pry left to become the head coach at Virginia Tech too, so this is not the same Nittany Lions’ defense that finished sixth in Defensive SP+.

Arkansas Razorbacks Betting Analysis

Straight Up - SU, Against the Spread - ATS, Over-Under (O/U)

  • SU: 8-4
  • ATS: 7-4-1
  • O/U: 7-5

Star receiver Treylon Burks opted out of this game to prepare for the NFL Draft. Burks was one of the best receivers in the SEC this year with 66 receptions for 1,104 yards and 11 touchdowns. His absence leaves a huge hole as Tyson Morris is the second leading receiver with 21 catches for 305 yards and two TDs.

That will affect K.J. Jefferson in the passing game. Jefferson has been a revelation at quarterback this season though. He is completing 66.9% of his passes for over 2,500 yards (9.4 YPA) with 21 touchdowns and three interceptions. Additionally, Jefferson is the second leading rusher on Arkansas with 554 yards (4.4 YPC) and five TDs.

The Razorbacks have run for over 2,600 yards and 4.9 YPC this season. No player had more than 600 rushing yards, but four different players had over 495 yards on the ground. They should be able to establish the line of scrimmage against a Penn State defense that may have to start multiple freshmen in the front seven due to the opt outs.

This defense is ranked 34th in Defensive SP+. The Razorbacks have two standout defensive backs that have been named First Team All-SEC in the past two seasons in Jalen Catalon and Montaric Brown.

Arkansas has failed to cover the spread in four of its last five games when facing a non-AP-ranked school. (AP)

Inside the Stats - Penn State Nittany Lions

  • Record: 7-5
  • VI Ranking: 30
  • Points Scored: 315
  • Points Allowed: 201
  • PS/G: 26.2 (83rd)
  • PA/G: 16.8 (7th)

Inside the Stats - Arkansas Razorbacks

  • Record: 8-4
  • VI Ranking: 23
  • Points Scored: 378
  • Points Allowed: 288
  • PS/G: 31.5 (42nd)
  • PA/G: 24 (45th)

Key Players to Watch

  • PSU: Sean Clifford - QB (247/396, 2,912 yards, 20 TD, 6 INT)
  • PSU: Parker Washington - WR (57 catches, 722 yards, 4 TD)
  • ARK: K.J. Jefferson - QB (184/275, 2,578 yards, 21 TD, 3 INT)
  • ARK: Raheim Sanders -RB (101 carries, 608 total yards, 4 Total TDs)

Outback Bowl Betting Conclusion

Arkansas will prove to be a bit too much for an inexperienced Penn State defense on New Year’s Day in Tampa. The Razorbacks will give up some points, but they will be able to cover the number and pick up their ninth win of the season.

Outback Bowl Betting Trends

  • Penn State has gone UNDER the point total in nine of its last 12 games.
  • Arkansas has covered the spread in two straight games.
  • Penn State has gone OVER the point total in four straight Bowl Games.
  • Arkansas has failed to cover the spread in four of its last five games when facing a non-AP-ranked school.