Penn State has an opportunity to bounce back against the listless Purdue Boilermakers in the penultimate home game of the 2013 season.
Kickoff: Noon, Beaver Stadium, State College, PA
The Line: PSU -21.5
Weather: Saturday will see a high of 54, with the temperature right around 50 degrees by kickoff. It will be mostly sunny with almost no chance of rain. In other words, perfect football weather.
PENN STATE RECORD: 13-8, 2nd year
OVERALL RECORD: same
VS. PURDUE: 1-0
PURDUE RECORD: 1-8, 1st Year
OVERALL RECORD: 17-18, 3rd Year
VS. PENN STATE: First meeting
PURDUE OFFENSE VS PENN STATE DEFENSE
This Purdue offense isn't bad as in they're ineffective or fail to put points on the board for stretches of time- they are historically awful. This is a unit that just made its first red zone appearance on Saturday against Iowa since September. They rank 123 in scoring offense, putting up a measly 11.8 points per game. In Purdue's only victory of the season, they put up 20 points against Indiana State, a 1-9 FCS team.
Freshman Danny Etling became the starting quarterback in week five after an ineffective start by Rob Henry. Etling actually has shown tremendous promise at times, but for now it's very obvious he's a freshman. He is completing 48 percent of his passes, has one more interception than touchdown (five and four, respectively) and has been sacked 21 times in five games. He tends to get inside his own head at times, holding on to the ball well after a play has developed. He'll be one of the better quarterbacks in a year or two if an offense is built around him, but for now he is taking his lumps.
Junior running back Akeem Hunt has done a solid job with limited playing time. Unfortunately for Hunt, he rarely has the opportunity to get into a rhythm as the run game is often abandoned before halftime. The most yards rushing he has against an FBS opponent is 57 against Nebraska. He has yet to reach the end zone rushing the ball this season. Hunt can hurt a defense coming out of the backfield, and has had a few big days receiving against the likes of Notre Dame, Iowa and Northern Illinois- all quality defenses. Hunt also leads the team in receptions with 33, and is 25 yards shy of leading the team in receiving yards as well. Freshman receiver DeAngelo Yancey is a name to remember for down the road. Like Etling, he'll be a force in the future. But for now, he just doesn not have the skill set to be the impact receiver the Biolermakers need him to be. He put together huge games against Nebraksa and Northern Illinois, but has had 0 or 1 receptions in five of the Boilermakers nine games on the season.
Purdue is also one of the worst teams when it comes to protecting the quarterback, so hopefully this translates to DaQuan Jones, Deion Barnes, Anthony Zettel and company spending plenty of time in the Boilermaker backfield.
PURDUE DEFENSE VS PENN STATE OFFENSE
The Boilermakers aren't all that great on defense either, giving up 37.2 points per contest. While they held Michigan State to just 14 points, they have also given up 41, 42, 44, 55 and 56 points against the meat of their schedule.
Let's start with the positive--Purdue is solid against the pass, allowing 214.9 yards per game through the air. However, this could also be because teams simply do not need to pass much against this unit thanks to an atrocious run defense, as well as the fact that they never make teams play from behind. Purdue has one of the poorest rush defenses in the nation, so expect a big day from either Bill Belton or Zach Zwinak- or maybe even a (gasp!) Akeel Lynch sighting in the second half. Hopefully Penn State's running back unit will make it through the day without a fumble, but I wouldn't count on it.
Purdue is giving up 37.2 points per game, but they may reduce their average this week if they can force a couple turnovers and find a way to harass Hackenberg in the red zone. Third downs will be interesting to watch, and once again will be one of the key factors in the game. As bad as Penn State is at converting third downs, Purdue is slightly worse at stopping them.
Finally some good news for Purdue- they are excellent at punting! Senior punter (and Harrisburg, PA native) Cody Webster is an absolute beast. His average punt on the season is good for 44.6 yards, and has two 73 yard punts. In fact, he's had at least a 51-yard punt in every game this season except for one, where his game high was 49 yards. Webster is probably the team MVP and will certainly be playing on Sundays in 2014. He will be a major factor if the Boilermakers can continuously win the field position battle in a tight contest. They are also damn good at returning punts, so don't be surprised if they find a way to bring one all the way back as Penn State sometimes struggles in kick coverage. Purdue is downright awful at covering kickoffs however, so Penn State may actually be able to bring a kick past the 25 yard line. Sophomore kicker Paul Griggs is struggling this year, only connecting on 5 of his 10 field goal attempts. Consistency seems to be an issue- he can nail a 47-yarder and then turn around and miss a chip shot.
PENN STATE-27 PURDUE-14
I wish I had the confidence to say Penn State will clobber Purdue on Saturday. The Boilermakers are just a flat-out bad team, and there's a chance Penn State will come out, execute and play mistake-free football and blew them out of the water. But there is just too much uncertainty with this team.
Hackenberg will struggle at times and throw a bad interception, but overall will have his best game since Michigan. Robinson will be ready to blow off some steam after a frustrating outing against Minnesota, and will edge out his single-game record for yards, along with two touchdowns. Zwinak and Belton will finally split the carries and both have games that hover around 100 yards. On defense, Jordan Lucas will pick off a pass early in the game, and have a bone-rattling hit that makes the highlight reel.
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