Arkansas Razorbacks vs. Penn State Nittany Lions: Outback Bowl Prediction & Game Preview - 1/1/2022

by Chuck Sommers

Outback Bowl

Game time: Noon ET; Jan. 1, 2022
Venue: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL
Where to watch: ESPN

Opening Odds at USA Sportsbooks

DraftKings: Penn State -2.5
BetMGM: Penn State -2.5
Caesars: Penn State -2

Season record
Penn State: 7-5
No. 21 Arkansas: 8-4

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Penn State - Arkansas preview and analysis

I like to think of the Outback Bowl as the "What If" Bowl. And I don't mean figuring out if there's another reality out there where Captain Peggy is not Captain America.

What would happen if the Arkansas Razorbacks and Penn State Nittany Lions stayed on the trajectory they were on from the beginning? They'd likely be playing in another bowl that's not based in Raymond James Stadium.

But the two teams will meet in the Outback Bowl on New Year's Day in a matchup of former top-10 teams this season.

No. 21 Arkansas was once a top-10 team that was minutes away from knocking off the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide on Nov. 20. In the end, the Razorbacks finished 8-4 behind the talent of quarterback KJ Jefferson. The dual-threat star had over 3,000 total yards with Jefferson throwing for 2,578 yards to go with 21 touchdowns and just three interceptions. He was nearly the team's leading rusher, trailing Trelon Smith by just 38 yards.

Treylon Burks was Jefferson's top target on the season, reeling in an absurd 1,104 yards and 11 touchdowns on just 66 receptions. Tyson Morris was the next leading receiver with 305 yards and two touchdowns. This is an offense that put up 31.5 points and 440.9 yards per game in the SEC.

Penn State's defense, however, could be a great test against Arkansas. It's a group that gave up just 16.8 points and under 350 yards per game. Penn State is led by Arnold Ebiketie and his team-best 9.5 sacks; it also remains Linebacker U after a 100-tackle season from Ellis Brooks this season.

But it can't be overlooked that the Nittany Lions went 2-5 in their final seven games after starting the season 5-0. That start included wins over Wisconsin and Auburn, but had losses to Iowa, Illinois, a 4-point loss to the Michigan Wolverines, and a 3-point loss to the Michigan State Spartans.

Talk about a team that needed to reach its potential and came up short. Hopefully, that extension to James Franklin won't continue to bite them. But this was surely a disappointing year on all counts.


Arkansas has been a betting favorite for most of the season, and this won't be any different. Penn State's defense has risen to the occasion many times this season, but Jefferson will present a dangerous threat that the Nittany Lions haven't seen before. Arkansas by 13

Betting trends

Arkansas is 12-9 ATS in its last 21 as an underdog.

Arkansas is 5-1 ATS this season after two consecutive games of committing one turnover or less.

Penn State is 14-12 ATS in its last 26 as a favorite and 5-3 this season.

Statistical leaders

Penn State:
Passing: Sean Clifford – 2,912 yards, 20 TD, 6 INT
Rushing: Keyvone Lee – 495 yards, 2 TD
Receiving: Jahan Dotson – 1,182 yards, 12 TD

Passing: KJ Jefferson – 2,578 yards, 21 TD, 3 INT
Rushing: Trelon Smith – 592 yards, 5 TD
Receiving: Treylon Burks – 1,104 yards, 11 TD

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Chuck Sommers

About the Author:

Chuck Sommers has camped outside of sportsbooks since he can remember, learning the tricks and nuances of the trade. He still has nightmares of betting $5,000 on the Raiders in the Tuck Rule game but has since turned that to 25 years of veteran handicapping greatness. You can find him mostly in the shadows at the Red Rock or Aliante casinos wondering if the over is cashing on any given Sunday.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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