The roles have reversed in 2021, a year after the Michael Penix reach for the pylon.
Fueled by a 2020 win over Penn State, Indiana went on to one of its best seasons ever while PSU’s slow start wrecked its season.
Now it is the Hoosiers who have started slow, and Penn State has legitimate CFP aspirations.
While the Lions would like nothing more than to prove the 2020 loss in Bloomington was a fluke, Indiana hopes it can put itself back on the national map with a primetime upset on the road.
INDIANA (2-2) at No. 4/6 PENN STATE (4-0)
- Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. Eastern
- Location: University Park, Pa., Beaver Stadium (106,572; natural grass)
- Television: ABC — Sean McDonough (p-b-p), Todd Blackledge (analyst) & Molly McGrath (sideline)
- Stream: Watch ESPN
- Radio: IU Football radio network
- Odds: Penn State is a 12-point favorite
- Weather at kickoff: 64 degrees, mostly cloudy, wind 3 mph, 4% chance of precipitation.
- Series: PSU leads the overall series, 22-2, including an 11-0 mark at Beaver Stadium. IU won the last meeting 36-35 in 2020 (watch)
- The Coaches:
Tom Allen is 26-24 (.520) in his fifth season as Indiana head football coach. His 24 wins over his first four years were the most for an IU head coach during that span.
James Franklin is 64-28 (.696) in his eighth season at Penn State. Franklin served as Vanderbilt head coach (2011-13) and carries an overall record of 88-43 (.672).
IU football Thursday notebook: Williams progressing; preparing for crowd, Clifford and national spotlight
Behind enemy lines: A Q&A session on what to expect from Penn State
Watch: IU football coordinators Warren and Sheridan with thoughts on Penn State
Watch: IU football coach Tom Allen radio show — Penn State week
Condensed game rewatch: The 2020 Penn State at Indiana instant classic
TALE OF THE TAPE
THE COMPLETE BIG TEN WEEK 5 SLATE
|Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium (Conf.)||TV: FS1 Stats Radio: Maryland Sports Radio Network|
|West Lafayette, Ind. (Conf.)||TV: BTN Stats Radio: Purdue Sports Network Video|
|Madison, WI (Conf.)||TV: FOX Stats Radio: Badger Sports Network Video|
|Champaign, Ill.||TV: BTN Stats Radio: Busey Bank Illini Sports Network|
|Piscataway, N.J. (Conf.)||TV: Big Ten Network Stats Radio: WCTC 1450-AM, WOR 710-AM, XM 196, Sirius 113, Scarlet Knights App Video|
|University Park, Pa. (Conf.)||TV: ABC Radio: IU Radio Network; Sirius 113, XM 196, Web 958 Video|
|East Lansing, MI||TV: Big Ten Network Stats Radio: Spartan Media Network|
|Lincoln, Neb. (Conf.)||TV: BTN Stats Radio: Huskers Radio Network Video|
WHEN PENN STATE HAS THE FOOTBALL
Under the direction of new offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich, Penn State’s offense has taken a step forward in 2020.
Penn State has the No. 18 passing offense in the country, averaging 308 yards per contest, and they get there with a wide variety of looks. The Lions will likely use an up-tempo approach at least at times, especially after the film IU put out against Western Kentucky.
Quarterback Sean Clifford is a three-year starter and off to the best pace of his career. Clifford has completed 71.7 percent of his passes for 1,158 yards and eight touchdowns against just two interceptions. He has been sacked seven times, signaling some degree of vulnerability with the protection up front. Clifford is a threat to run. He rushed for 119 yards and a score in 2020 against the Hoosiers, and 55 yards and two scores in 2019.
Receivers Jahan Dotson (27 catches, 362 yards, four touchdowns) and Parker Washington (23 catches, 301 yards, two touchdowns) are the main threats. Indiana has talented corners to match up with them, especially if Jaylin Williams (concussion protocol) can play.
The running game hasn’t really gotten off the ground to this point, with PSU opting to use playmakers like Dotson and Washington to make things happen with the short passing game. Nationally PSU ranks just No. 110 in rushing yards with 113.5 per game.
Junior Noah Cain is the leading rusher with 164 yards on 48 carries (3.4 ypc). Sophomore Keyvone Lee has been more effective, picking up 100 yards on 20 carries (5.0 ypc).
WHEN INDIANA HAS THE FOOTBALL
All eyes will be on IU quarterback Michael Penix, Jr., who has thrown six interceptions in the Hoosiers’ two losses but had 373 yards in a week four win over Western Kentucky. Indiana cannot win this game unless Penix is fully recovered physically and mentally after a second season-ending ACL injury in 2020. The model for success on Saturday is his 2019 performance on the road against a very good Michigan State defense when he completed 33-of-42 passes for 286 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions.
Penix will be throwing against a high-end veteran secondary that is the strength of the unit. Safety Jaquan Brisker is among the best at his position in the nation, and his teammate on the back end Ji’Ayir Brown delivered a game-winning interception against Wisconsin in Week 1.
Cornerback Tariq Castro-Fields decided to return for another season along with Brisker and is one of Penn State’s top guys in coverage. Joey Porter Jr. (the son of former Steeler Joey Porter) is a very physical and effective corner.
Linebackers Brandon Smith, Ellis Brooks and Jesse Luketa are the three leading tackles with 27,22 and 19 respectively. Luketa plays the hybrid linebacker/defensive end bull position that Indiana uses. Smith and Brooks both play on the inside. They are both returning starters with All-Big Ten potential.
Defensive line was the perceived weakness coming into the season, with just one returning starter. But led by Temple transfer Arnold Ebiketie and his two sacks, the Lions have been stout up front and putting pressure on the quarterback. Nick Tarburton has also been playing at a high level.
The Lions are aggressive, blitzing on about 50 percent of their snaps. They will no doubt use every trick in their bag to force Penix into quick decisions.
Indiana has had trouble finishing drives of late, and that won’t get any easier on Saturday. Penn State ranks No. 10 in red zone defense.
The special teams have played a big role in this series. Saquon Barkley opened the 2017 game with a kickoff return touchdown, and a long third quarter Penn State kickoff return in 2018 might have cost Indiana the game. In 2019, IU muffed a punt, and that led to a PSU touchdown in a one-score game. Indiana cannot afford to give up a special teams score or lose the turnover margin.
Penix appeared to turn a corner against Western Kentucky, but a tough road environment against a much better defense will be the real test. The Hoosiers hang around in this one, but a lack of explosive plays means they cannot sustain enough drives to pull it out.
TDH: PENN STATE 31 INDIANA 20
COLLEGE FOOTBALL NEWS: PENN STATE 36 INDIANA 20
ATHLON: PENN STATE 31 INDIANA 17
PSU 247 (Average) PENN STATE 35 INDIANA 17
ESPN SP+ (Computer) PENN STATE 36 INDIANA 15
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