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- Barry Reeger/Associated PressA good matchup is bloomin’—sorry, brewing—in Tampa, Florida.
Come Saturday afternoon, or 12 p.m. exactly if you’re on the East Coast, the 2022 Outback Bowl will pit the Penn State Nittany Lions against the Arkansas Razorbacks.
It’s the first matchup between the programs, although any history between them would probably be made moot anyway by the multiple opt-outs on both rosters. Each school is missing key playmakers on both sides of the ball, which could make this contest a tough one to tackle in the wagering world and the daily-fantasy realm.
To help prepare those aiming to have action on those fronts, we’ll preview the contest by examining the latest odds and lay out a couple DFS tips.
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- Michael Woods/Associated PressThe Nittany Lions were initially favored in this contest, but the line has flipped to the Razorbacks (-2) because they have been less affected by opt-outs. And that’s saying something since Arkansas will be without wideout Treylon Brooks (their top pass-catcher by nearly 800 receiving yards) and sack leader Tre Williams.
But Penn State has seen six players opt-out of this game, including five on the defensive side of the football alone.
The lone offensive subtraction is a big one, as wide receiver Jahan Dotson paced Penn State in receptions (91), receiving yards (1,182) and touchdown catches (12). On defense, the Nittany Lions are down safety Jaquan Brisker, linebackers Ellis Brooks and Brandon Smith, defensive end Arnold Ebiketie and defensive tackle Derrick Tangelo.
Given all the absences, this almost feels more like a 2022 preview than a 2021 wrap-up, which won’t make it easy to wager on. Having said that, Arkansas had the better season overall (more wins and more wins over ranked opponents), probably widened the gap down the stretch (4-1 in its past five games, with the only slip-up being a single-score loss to Alabama) and won’t have as many players missing.
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- Julio Cortez/Associated PressPut both of these rosters at full strength, and you would likely see better fantasy numbers from Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson than his Penn State counterpart, Sean Clifford.
Frankly, you saw better numbers all season. Jefferson posted a higher completion percentage (66.9 to 62.4), had more touchdowns (21 to 20) with fewer interceptions (three to six) and far better work as a rusher (554 yards and five scores to 117 and two).
However, these rosters aren’t at full strength. And while each offense is missing its top receiver, Penn State’s is better equipped to cushion the blow. The Nittany Lions will still bring a pair of 400-plus yard receivers into the contest (Parker Washington and KeAndre Lambert-Smith), while the Razorbacks will have none. Penn State’s top two remaining receivers combined for 88 catches; Arkansas’ had 39.
Also worth noting, the Nittany Lions are more likely to shift opportunities to their other receivers, while the Razorbacks might just lean heavier on their rushing attack, which outgained Penn State’s by 1,331 yards. Granted, Jefferson will get a piece of that rushing pie, but he was one of four Razorbacks to rush for between 592 and 498 yards, so he will be splitting carries with Trelon Smith, Raheim Sanders and Dominique Johnson.
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- Michael Woods/Associated PressThere could be a lot of stretches when the Razorbacks’ offensive game plan is rush, reset and repeat, but they won’t want to be one-dimensional.
Some receiver will have to pick up the slack for the absent Burks, and while it will likely be a replacement by committee, senior wideout De’Vion Warren could wind up with the standout moments—and the best fantasy stats.
He doesn’t get a ton of touches (16 total on the season), but he makes things happen with the ball in his hand. He averaged at least 16 yards on rushes and receptions this season and turned just three touches into 95 scrimmage yards in the regular-season finale.
There’s risk here, since he never plays a huge role in the offense, but the possible reward is rich enough to consider him as part of your DFS plan.
Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook.
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