Photo Credit - Penn State Athletics

IU Football Game Day: Penn State Primer and Prediction

Indiana had a week off, but the headlines continued to emerge from Bloomington.  With the Hoosiers in the midst of what has been a special season to this point, the news was mixed.

After shuffling in and out of the starting lineup with various injuries all season, quarterback Michael Penix had surgery and was declared out for the season.

Next, for the first time in 25 years Indiana entered the top 25.

No longer facing weekly questions at the quarterback position, and freshly anointed by the national coaches and media, the Hoosiers are ready to get back to it.

Indiana will look to win their fifth straight game in the Big Ten on Saturday for the first since 1967, but in order to do that, they’ll have to do something that they have never accomplished — win at Penn State.

No. 24/25 INDIANA (7-2, 4-2) at No. 9/11 PENN STATE (8-1, 5-1)

  • Kickoff:  Noon Eastern Time
  • Location:  Beaver Stadium (106,572), University Park, Pennsylvania
  • Television:  ABC
  • Series:  Penn State leads the series 21-1.
  • Odds:  Penn State is a 14.5 point favorite
  • Weather at kickoff:  33 degrees, wind 8 mph, 0% chance of precipitation.

Tom Allen is 17-17 and now in his third full season as the head coach at Indiana.

James Franklin is 53-22 (.707) in his sixth season at Penn State. Franklin served as Vanderbilt head coach (2011-13) and carries an overall record of 77-37 (.675)

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The Nittany Lion offense starts and stops with first year starter Sean Clifford.  Stepping in for graduated long time starter Trace McSorley, Penn State hasn’t missed a beat.

Clifford has gone 157-of-259 through the air for 2,271 yards and 21 touchdowns.  The Cincinnati product has thrown 6 interceptions on the season, including 3 last weekend at Minnesota.

A true dual threat, Clifford is also Penn State’s third leading rusher with 319 yards and 3 touchdowns.

If there is a hole in Clifford’s game it is his accuracy.  He hasn’t had a better than 60% passing game in Penn State’s last four contests.

Clifford’s favorite target has been 5-foot-9 and 176 pound receiver KJ Hamler.  The sophomore has 44 receptions for 739 yards and 8 touchdowns.  Clifford also looks to the tight ends regularly, and Pat Frieiermuth has 32 receptions for 392 yards and 7 touchdowns.  Jahan Dotson is another big play threat in a small but fast receiver group.

Penn State is fairly balanced passing vs. running the ball, and two primary backs lead an attack that averages 170 yards per game on the ground.

Sophomore Journey Brown has 421 yards and 5 touchdowns while sporting a hefty 6.5 yards per carry average.  Freshman Noah Cain has added another 350 yards and 6 scores while averaging 5.1 yards per tote.

Image result for sean clifford penn state
Penn State’s Sean Clifford. Credit – Penn State Athletics


Led by first year offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer, the Hoosiers have done an admirable job navigating their weekly quarterback uncertainty.

Peyton Ramsey has had a full two weeks to get ready for what will be his biggest challenge since week three against Ohio State.

Ramsey has been magnificent this year completing 72 percent of his throws, but he struggled against the Buckeyes.  Penn State’s defense might not be Ohio State good, but it will by far be the second best unit that Ramsey has seen this year.

Penn State’s weakness appears to be the passing game, although the yards they have allowed are somewhat inflated by leading most of their games by large margins.  But Minnesota’s Tanner Morgan did manage to put up 339 yards last weekend.

IU has six players with at least 23 receptions, led by Whop Philyor 59 catches for 813 yards.  Defenses have at times double teamed Philyor, but that has left them exposed against a big, experienced and talented wide receiver core that includes Donavan Hale, Nick Westbrook and Ty Fryfogle.

The Hoosiers have also thrown extensively to backs and tight ends in DeBoer’s spread system.

Quietly emerging after a slow start is running back Stevie Scott.  The New York product has 737 yards while averaging 5 yards per carry.  Scott has 10 total touchdowns on the season.

On paper Penn State’s defense looks a lot like Michigan State — elite against the run and strong overall.  Against the Spartans IU utilized a short passing game to move the ball efficiently.

A similar game plan could be in the works, but this time it will be Ramsey rather than Penix at the helm.

The big question — does Ramsey have the arm talent to make every throw on the field in order to keep the Nittany Lions honest?


Finally we enter a weekend without any questions at the quarterback position for either team.

But still, the quarterbacks seem like the big question.  Does Clifford have the accuracy?  Can he recover from a loss and a bad outing?  Does Ramsey have the arm?  Can he continue his high level of play against an elite defense?

We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention special teams, which have played a major role in this series recently.  Often that is what divides programs like this, and that has been the story here, especially in kickoff coverage.

If Indiana can win the turnover battle, and avoid penalties and special teams mistakes then this one could go down to the wire.

But that’s a lot to ask.



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