Penn State-Indiana Game Preview

Rich Barnes-US PRESSWIRE

Penn State opens up its Big Ten slate with a match-up against the 2-2 Indiana Hoosiers.

No Penn State team has ever lost a game to the Indiana Hoosiers, and the 2013 squad will do work tomorrow to try to ensure that goose egg remains in the record column.

Penn State (3-1) vs. Indiana (2-2)

Kickoff: Noon, Memorial Stadium, Bloomington, IN

The Line: PSU -3.5

TV: Big Ten Network Matt Devlin (p-by-p), Glen Mason (analyst) and Jon Jansen (sideline)

Weather: A warm day, with temperatures topping out at 78 degrees with scattered thunderstorms expected throughout the afternoon.

COACHES:

Bill O'Brien:

PENN STATE RECORD: 11-5, 2nd year
OVERALL RECORD: 11-5 VS. Indiana: 1-0

Kevin Wilson:

INDIANA RECORD: 7-21, 3rd Year
OVERALL RECORD: 7-21, 3rd Year
VS. PENN STATE: 0-1

...NOW THE FUN PART

INDIANA OFFENSE VS PENN STATE DEFENSE

Indiana is a pass-first offense, which could cause problems for the Penn State defense. Sophomore quarterback Nate Sudfeld is off to a promising start, connecting on 81 of 124 passes (65.3 percent), 1,146 yards, 11 touchdowns and five interceptions. However, Sudfeld had a fairly atrocious game against Missouri, the one solid(ish) defense the Hoosiers have faced thus far. The Hoosiers have two capable running backs in Tevin Coleman and Stephen Houston. We will see more of Coleman on Saturday, as he averages 14 carries a game on the season. Both backs are averaging more than 6 yards a carry and are threats in the passing game. Junior wide receiver Cody Latimer is one of the best receivers throughout the Big Ten, and will make the Nittany Lions pay if the defense has lapses in coverage, which they've had their fair share of this season.

Saturday will be a key game for the Nittany Lion defense, as they attempt to tighten up a few things that hurt them during the non-conference slate. Adrian Amos will be someone to keep an eye on, as the hard-hitting junior may be permanently moved back to cornerback, where he played during his true freshman and sophomore seasons. This move may be dependent on the health of safety Ryan Keiser, who is listed as 'possible' as he recovers from a hand injury suffered in a brilliant performance against Kent State. I know I sound like a broken record, but this week could finally be the game where Mike Hull returns to his status as a full-time starter after suffering a nagging knee injury in week one. Saturday should be the first time we see what the Penn State defense is capable of with a healthy Hull playing at outside linebacker, as he is no longer even listed on the injury report.

INDIANA DEFENSE VS PENN STATE OFFENSE

Historians bicker about the precise date when defense was outlawed in Bloomington, but do agree it probably had something to do with Lee Corso's shenanigans. The Hoosiers are ranked 106th in total defense and 97th is scoring defense, despite returning nearly every starter from last year's unit. The defense is somewhat capable at slowing down the passing attack, but abysmal against the run. The one thing the Indiana defense does really well is stopping teams on third downs, which fares well for the Hoosiers considering how bad Penn State has been at third down conversions. Linebacker David Cooper leads the team with 33 tackles, and defensive end Nick Mangieri is a viable pass-rush threat off the edge. Mangieri will likely welcome Christian Hackenberg to the Big Ten in a not so friendly manner at least once on Saturday.

Remember how frustrating it was to watch Penn State struggle to throw the ball against Kent State in the second half, even though the Golden Flashes had no answer for the running game? Expect more of that against Indiana. Penn State's best game plan for victory is a steady dose of Zach Zwinak, Akeel Lynch and Bill Belton. however, this is another game that can be key to Hackenberg's development, and you can bet your last dollar Bill O'Brien is going to take full advantage of it.

Allen Robinson was so good against Indiana last year that I'm fairly certain he took the form of a unicorn at one point. Expect Hackenberg to find him early and often. A player to watch is freshman tight end Adam Breneman, who had the best game of his early career against Kent State. Hackenberg has become more comfortable throwing to the tight ends as the season has progressed, and Breneman will assuredly become a bigger part of the offense throughout the fall.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Indiana does an excellent job of kick coverage, and are one of the stingiest teams in the nation when it comes to allowing punt and kickoff return yardage. Besides that, the Hoosiers special teams does not do anything else particularly well. As fantastic as they are in kick coverage, they are equally terrible in kick and punt returns. Senior kicker Mitch Ewald has started since his freshman year but only has one field goal attempt on the season, nailing a 26-yarder in week one. Sophomore punter Erich Toth is averaging an impressive 41.5 yards per kick. Toth had a measly three punts in the first three weeks, before having to punt nine times against Missouri.

PREDICTION: PENN STATE- 38 INDIANA- 21

I actually predicted Indiana would get their first victory over Penn State in program history way back during my preseason record prediction. Indiana had a ton of returning talent, and Kevin Wilson seemed to have this program ready for a breakthrough (in Hoosier terms) season. Then I watched Indiana allow Navy to jump all over them in week two, falling behind 21-0 before ultimately falling 41-35. A couple weeks later, I watched them get completely outperformed by a very average Missouri team. So let's just say I'm much more comfortable with this game compared to before the start of the season.

Sufeld will have a solid, yet unspectacular, showing that will help the Hoosiers find the end zone a few times. But the Nittany Lions offense will be too much for the Indiana defense. Zwinak, Lynch and Belton will all have satisfying days, while Hackenberg and Robinson surpass their records for single-game passing and receiving yards, respectively. Hull will celebrate his return with a sack and a forced turnover, while Amos adds another interception.


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