A wise man once said "punting is winning." I have always ta-assistant appears in frame and whispers in my ear-
Oh, right, it was Rick Neuheisel who said that. So, a man, at least. So ends that soliloquy.
Anyway, the culmination of #PUNTWEEK comes with Saturday's homecoming extravaganza against the Hoosiers. When you last saw Indiana, they were busy playing with the defending national champions for a full 60 minutes before being stopped on 4th-and-goal. Ultimately, the Fighting Diamonts left Memorial Stadium with just about the most encouraging 34-27 loss humanly possible. When you last saw Penn State, they played an offensive game that inspired as much confidence as a Forrest McNeil one-star rating. Call it "there all is screening" if you so choose.
However, this is a different week, and with it comes the sequel to what last year could nominally be called a football game. This year, Penn State versus Indiana, arguably the greatest rivalry in the history of major college football, will be played at Beaver Stadium. That's good! John Donovan is still Penn State's offensive coordinator. That's bad. D'oh! It's homecoming! That's good and bad. Penn State, at least observationally, sucks during homecoming. Last year's loss to Northwestern was the flattest game I saw played at Beaver Stadium during my time as a student, and I saw games in 2011. So, yeah. Let's not repeat that. Nate Sudfeld and Jordan Howard are coming off injuries, but both look primed to play in what will be a pivotal game for both schools.
Saquon Barkley, the dude affectionately known as Sa Sa (pronounced Say-Say) who once told my friend's roommate to name his soon-to-be-born child Saquon, should also be back. He's the most electric playmaker Penn State has had in the backfield since, dare I say, Silas Redd? His importance to this offense cannot be overstated, which is both a testament to his talent and an indictment of the Donovan offense. That offensive strategy, which has the astounding ability to repeatedly put the eleven guys on the field in positions where they are near-guaranteed to fail, will need to score with an Indiana attack that certainly has no problem putting points on the board.
No matter what happens, though, this game will hopefully involve copious amounts of one thing: footballs being snapped over long distances, caught by relatively unathletic white dudes, and dropped earthward, where they will meet with cleat in a sweet symphony of raw human power unmatched in sports. The punts may not be as frequent as last season, but I'll be damned if I won't celebrate each one like it's Puntmas come early. Happy single-bar helmet day and happy homecoming, fam.
bscaff: Penn State needs to run 70+ snaps on offense, and produce 8+ big plays. I think they can get that done. Saquon Barkley should be back - that's, like, really good news. And, at some point, even if it's by accident, John Donovan is going to see if Polk/Thompkins can run vertically as fast as they can run horizontally. It'd be really cool if it's Saturday.
Penn State 27 - Indiana 24
Matt: A week ago, the Lions stumbled their way to what almost felt like an accidental win against Army, while Indiana was a fingertip (and perhaps defensive holding) away from going to OT with the defending champs. You would probably be shocked to find out, however, Indiana narrowly escaped Southern Illinois, Western Kentucky, and Wake Forest in three of their four wins. Indiana is a solid team, but they are more than what you saw a week ago. Penn State should have Saquon Barkley back, and as Film Room pointed out earlier this week, the big play potential he brings with him is key against the IU defense. Not only that, the freshman back gives this PSU offense more confidence all over the field, including the way beleaguered John Donovan calls the game. On defense, the return of Marcus Allen, and Brandon Bell, plus more snaps from the first string line, ought to be enough to keep the Hoosier offense in check. Remember a year ago PSU's defense only surrendered 3 points in Bloomington. Don't overlook the "letdown" factor either, with Indiana is coming off an emotional loss. It won't be pretty, but it will be enough.
Penn State 24 - Indiana 14
Eli: I love recency bias. It allows people to completely ignore everything up to a certain point in memory. This creates a scenario where the evidence right in front of your eyes becomes more important than the evidence you have to try a little harder to look for. The evidence in this case is Indiana's game against Ohio State. This recency bias is twofold: First, there's Indiana's games against Ohio State under Kevin Wilson. In 2014, Indiana led 27-21 in the 4th quarter. In 2012, Indiana lost to Ohio State 49-52. In 2011, Indiana trailed Ohio State by 7, and ultimately lost by 14. The only year in which Indiana has not been competitive with Ohio State was 2013, losing 42-14. Coincidentally, that's the year Indiana beat Penn State. Secondly, let's not forget the kinds of games Indiana was playing prior to facing Ohio State: Southern Illinois, 48-47. Florida International, 36-22 (FIU led in the 4th quarter. Sound familiar?). Western Kentucky, 38-35. Wake Forest, 31-24. Indiana under Kevin Wilson has consistently improved. There's no doubt in my mind they can win 8 games, with Rutgers, Maryland, Purdue, and Iowa (yes, Iowa) on the schedule still. However, there's no reason to believe Indiana will come to Beaver Stadium after losing a heartbreaker to Ohio State and put on the same performance they did a week ago.
Penn State 56 - Indiana 17
Nick: It's time for Joey Julius to get his first game-winning kick. I'm not overly confident in Penn State in this one, especially with it sounding like Nate Sudfeld and Jordan Howard will be ready to go, but I am confident in how this offense looks with Saquon Barkley on the field. From the sound of things, Barkley will be plenty healthy to play this weekend (and probably was last weekend, but Injury + Rain + Army = Don't Bother), which is reason enough for me to feel good about being able to score a bunch of points on Indiana. This game though, is really 100% dependent on whether or not the offense is able to sustain drives. If they have multiple three-and-outs, or have more than a few drives that last less than six plays, Indiana's offense will make them pay. The Nittany Lion defense is very, very good, but even they will reach their limit if they are forced to stay on the field all day. If there's one thing that Indiana has been able to do consistently under Kevin Wilson, it's move the ball down the field. In the end, I think Penn State IS able to put together some solid drives, mostly thanks to Saquon Barkley and some play action passing. Put me down for 175 yards for Saquon, 268 for Hackenberg and a final Penn State drive that is helped by a 42 yard screen pass to DaeSean Hamilton to put Joey Julius in range to hit the game-winning 37 yarder. Lock it up.
Penn State 31 - Indiana 28
Dan: This is my prediction assuming Saquon Barkley plays Saturday, which I believe he will. I don't see a way for this team to win without him. He is the only player on the offense capable of masking the deficiencies of both this offensive coordinator and this offensive line. While he is not a miracle worker, he is their best chance for victory, and he has shown enough that I believe in him even after he's missed the better part of two games with an ankle injury. I'd like to see Penn State take some shots down the field on offense again and open things up a little bit. It worked against San Diego State and briefly against Army. And here's hoping there's some better health on the defensive side of the football to slow this Indiana attack down.
Penn State 30 - Indiana 24
Tim: I am basing this prediction mainly on the presumption that Saquon Barkley is available and is (mostly) his old self. The fact that Nate Sudfeld and Jordan Howard are both likely to play for IU will make life more difficult for the PSU defense but given that Marcus Allen and Brandon Bell are also likely to return, that may help make this a push. Really, the reason I'm defying logic and picking PSU here is due to this crazy little thing called 'emotion.' The Hoosiers showed plenty of it last weekend in nearly taking Ohio State to OT at home, and one has to wonder whether they saved any of that emotion for a Noon road game. My pretend money is on IU not quite looking like the same team that could've toppled the nation's #1 team last week and that will be just enough for PSU to squeak by.
Penn State 24 - Indiana 21
NCAA 14: Oh, man. For once, the video game gods do not believe in the Nittany Lions. However, they do believe in the reason we are all here: PUNTS, Y'ALL! A combined 15 punts, two touchdowns, a field goal, a safety, and a blocked extra point made this all happen. For Penn State, DeAndre Thompkins returned a beautifully placed coffin corner punt that didn't quite make it out of bounds 96 yards for a touchdown the first time Penn State touched the ball. Indiana would kick a field goal on their next possession, and then tragedy struck for Penn State. Christian Hackenberg left the game after a bad sack with a knee injury, and former Indiana commit Tommy Stevens didn't do much to replace him. Nobody did anything for 45 minutes. Literally, it was a 7-0 game going into the 4th quarter.
Penn State's defense absolutely terrorized Indiana, who lost Nate Sudfeld to injury just two possession after Hack went down, and could not get anything going on the ground. However, Zander Diamont did his best Johnny Manziel impression since the last time he did one last week, leading IU to a touchdown after scrambling and ducking two sacks on a broken play, then heaving a deep ball to an uncovered Simmie Cobbs. A blocked extra point made it a 9-7 game, and Penn State marched back down the field triumphantly. The aforementioned Sa Sa took a screen pass 57 yards, and a Joey Julius field goal with four minutes remaining put the Lions up 10-9. A three-and-out had Penn State simply needing a first down from their own to exhaust all of Indiana's timeouts and win the game. However, a botched jet sweep (I know, it's all too eerie) led to a fumble and a safety.
That's right, NCAA football believes that Indiana will defeat Penn State 11-10. "No, that's not a typo" is maybe the worst cliché in writing (we have spellcheck and copy editors in 2015, idiot) but the forces that be predict lots and lots of kicking. If we're gonna lose, lose sexy.
FROM THE PODCAST (ed. note - the podcast happened this week, we swear):
Bill: Indiana 31 - Penn State 17
Cari: Penn State 17 - Indiana 14
Adam: Indiana 27 - Penn State 17
Jared: Indiana 24 - Penn State 17