Indiana got a bit of a reality check last weekend against Iowa — and things don’t get any easier this Saturday.
The Hoosiers find themselves on a two game losing streak for the first time this year and risk slipping back to .500 after a 4-1 start. It’s a familiar story for Indiana fans, as the brutal Big Ten East schedule strikes again.
Some members of this IU team carry the memory of taking a lead into the fourth quarter against Penn State the last time the Nittany Lions visited Bloomington in 2016. Whether that provides confidence or not, the Hoosiers had better be ready. Penn State is coming to town with a two game losing streak of their own (Ohio State, Michigan State), and they won’t be looking to see an already disappointing start become a free fall.
PENN STATE (4-2, 1-2) at INDIANA (4-3, 1-3)
- Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time
- Location: Memorial Stadium (52,656), Bloomington, Indiana
- Television: ABC
- Series: Penn State leads the all-time series 20-1. Penn State won last year 45-14 in State College. IU’s last win in the series was in 2013, 44-24 in Bloomington.
- Odds: Penn State is a 14 point favorite.
- Weather at kickoff: 59 degrees, mostly sunny, sustained winds of 15 mph with gusts up to 35 mph, 0% chance of rain
Penn State head coach James Franklin is 40-19 in his fifth season leading Penn State. Franklin previously served as the Vanderbilt head coach and carries an overall record of 64-34 (.653).
TALE OF THE TAPE
WHEN INDIANA HAS THE FOOTBALL
Let’s face it — the book is out on defending IU. Bigger and more athletic opponents are giving the Hoosiers the short passing game and counting on a penalty, sack or other miscue to take IU out of their comfort zone and ultimately stall out drives.
With the weather calling for heavy winds, the Nittany Lions are likely to double down on that approach, especially when IU is going into the wind.
The Nittany Lion defense doesn’t particularly stand out on paper, but they have been improving. The interior of the defensive line has been shaken up and may present an opportunity for IU to run the ball. That seems difficult to count on as Stevie Scott has been relatively quiet after a fast start to the season, and he continues to struggle with ball security.
As we’ve said and will continue to say against bigger, stronger and faster teams, Indiana needs to use four and five wide sets and try to attack with the best position on its team — wide receiver. It remains to be seen whether the wind will further inhibit an already dormant vertical passing attack.
WHEN PENN STATE HAS THE FOOTBALL
When it comes to the Penn State offense, most people immediately think of Trace McSorley, and for good reason. In the last two meetings against Indiana, he threw for more than 300 yards in each game. It has been a different story so far this season, as he hasn’t thrown for more than 290 yards in a game.
The wind might further impact the passing game, the Nittany Lions most certainly would like to emphasize that after watching the IU defense give up 12 passing touchdowns over the last two weeks.
The name that should come to mind first when Penn State has the ball in 2018 is running back Miles Sanders.
Remember that stout Michigan State run defense? They were ranked No. 1 in the country going into last week’s game against Penn State, and Sanders, the former No. 1 ranked recruit in the country, ran for 162 yards against the Spartans.
Enter IU head coach Tom Allen, who has shown a knack for taking away the PSU running game. Over the last two seasons, Saquon Barkley was limited to less than 60 yards and 3 yards a carry in each meeting.
If the wind can neutralize McSorley and Allen can draw up another game plan to stop Sanders, perhaps there is a chance?
In one of their more famous songs, the Who sings the memorable lyrics “Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.”
Penn State has won 20 of 21 in this series — they are the boss here.
Last week we got a little ahead of ourselves with Indiana — and vastly underestimated Iowa.
Look for Indiana to get back to putting up a fight as they typically do under Tom Allen. But make no mistake — we won’t get fooled again.
PENN STATE 31
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