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Game Preview: Penn State at Purdue

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After a dramatic upset victory, Penn State hits the road to take on the Boilermakers.

Purdue v Penn State Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Following one of the biggest victories in recent memory, Penn State looks to avoid a letdown and reach bowl eligibility against a hungry Purdue squad.

Penn State (5-2, 3-1) vs. Purdue (3-4, 1-3)

Kickoff: Noon, Ross-Ade Stadium, West Lafayette, IN

The Betting Line: Penn State -11.5

TV: ESPN2 Beth Mowins (play-by-play), Anthony Becht (analyst), Rocky Boiman (sideline)

Weather: An unseasonably warm and sunny day, with highs in the low 70s with very little chance of rain.

COACHES:

James Franklin:

PENN STATE RECORD: 19-14, 3rd Year

OVERALL RECORD: 43-29, 6th Year

VS. PURDUE: First Meeting

Gerard Parker:

PURDUE RECORD: 0-1, 1st Year (Interim Coach)

OVERALL RECORD: 0-1, 1st Year

VS. PENN STATE: First Meeting

...NOW THE FUN PART

PURDUE OFFENSE VS PENN STATE DEFENSE

While Purdue has been hampered by ineffective play along the offensive line, the Boilermakers have enough talent at the skill positions to do some damage. Sophomore David Blough has been more effective than expected, and is actually the current leader Big Ten leader in passing yards with 2,065 on the season, while completing 56.2 percent of his passes and tossing 14 touchdowns. He can be mistake-prone at times, and has already thrown 11 interceptions in seven games. Coming off an epic performance where Penn State’s young defensive line dominated the Buckeyes in the trenches, especially in the second half, expect them to try to exert their will with a four-man front and plenty of varied pressure coming from all angles. The key for the defense is to rattle Blough early and eliminate the Boilermakers productive aerial attack.

Purdue is deep at the receiver position, which starts with senior DeAngelo Yancey, who will be playing in the NFL next fall. Yancey is a tall, physical pass catcher who is capable of stretching the field and creating a big play at any moment. For the season he has 491 yards on 28 receptions and five touchdowns. Purdue will be without the services of senior Domonique Young, who is still the team’s leading receiver despite not playing since Oct. 8 after suffering a knee injury. Senior Bilal Marshall has stepped up in his absence, and is coming off a five reception, 84 yard performance against Nebraska. Purdue also has a dangerous tight end in Cole Herdman, who will look to replicate the success of Ohio State tight end Marcus Baugh from Saturday’s Whiteout. Purdue’s receiving corps has plenty of size, and will look to use it to its advantage to create mismatches against a suddenly-stout Penn State defense.

Markell Jones is Purdue’s top running back, and while he had very impressive performances against Eastern Kentucky and Nevada, he has been far from effective in Big Ten play. Against Maryland, Iowa and Nebraska, Jones averaged 30.7 yards per contest and did not find the end zone once. If Penn State can shut down the passing game and force Purdue to try to run the ball, it could be a very long afternoon for the Boilermakers.

It will be interesting to see if Penn State’s defensive line can carry the momentum from Ohio State forward. Many young players have emerged, and upperclassmen Evan Schwan and Garrett Sickels have grown more dominant with each passing week. Penn State’s defense should continue to get a boost from the return of linebackers of Jason Cabinda and Brandon Bell, who each put on a performance for the ages against the Buckeyes in their first game back from injury.

PURDUE DEFENSE VS PENN STATE OFFENSE

It’s hard to find many bright spots on the Purdue defense. The Boilermakers are allowing 33.3 points per game, and have been smoked by the likes of Maryland for 50, Illinois for 31 and Iowa for 49. If there is one area of strength for the Purdue defense, it is their secondary. The Boilermakers are allowing 192 yards per game through the air, good for 24th in the nation, but that may be a symptom of opponents taking advantage of a porous run defense and not being challenged to throw the ball.

As mentioned, Purdue’s run defense is among the worse in the nation, giving up 249 yards per contest. This should be music to quarterback Trace McSorley and running back Saquon Barkley’s ears, as the duo will attempt to do some damage with the read-option attack. If Penn State can build an early lead, this could also create an opportunity to get more carries for Miles Sanders. The true freshman has emerged as the number two back behind Barkley, but has yet to take over with regular series to give Barkley a much-needed rest as he tries to carry on as the offense’s workhorse for the remainder of the season. If the Nittany Lions can get the ground game rolling, they may follow the lead of Purdue’s opponents and limit the number of attempts by McSorley. Even if this is the case, rest assured that McSorley will be looking deep for Chris Godwin, Saeed Blacknall and DeAndre Thompkins (if healthy) to keep the defense honest and capitalize on the team’s big-play ability.

To Purdue’s credit, they are coming off an impressive performance against #7 Nebraska, allowing 27 points and holding the Cornhuskers to just seven points in the first half, so they are showing signs of improvement.

Keep an eye out for freshman outside linebacker Markus Bailey, who is a star in the making for the Boilermakers. He has quickly developed throughout the first half of the season and should be in for a productive afternoon. Defensive end Evan Panfil could also create headaches for the Nittany Lions. The senior can be disruptive at times, registering 9.5 negative hits and four sacks this season.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Purdue kicker J.D. Dellinger is four-of-seven on the season, with a long of just 37 yards. He missed on his only attempt from more than 40 yards in week two. Expect Purdue to roll the dice and use all four downs in Penn State territory outside of the red zone. The Boilermakers have a standout punter in sophomore Joe Schopper, who is averaging 40.4 yards per punt and regularly booms 50-plus yard punts to help flip the field when needed.

The Boilermakers have been pedestrian in the return game thus far this season. Chief returner Malik Kimbrough averages 7.1 yards on punt returns and 19.7 yards on kickoffs.

Penn State kicker Tyler Davis missed his first career field goal with a low kick against Ohio State that was blocked (or rather, kicked directly into the Buckeyes defenders), although that could partially be blamed on the wet field conditions. He should have no problem bouncing back. Freshman Blake Gillkin returned from injury against Ohio State and will look to continue his impressive season where he’s helped ignite Penn State’s special teams play.

PREDICTION

Penn State-37 , Purdue-17

Penn State gets off to a sluggish start, which is only human nature following an emotional upset victory under the lights the previous week. By the second quarter, the ground game gets rolling to give the Nittany Lions a 20-10 lead going into the half, and the team never looks back from there.

Saquon Barkley finishes with 170 yards and a touchdown, while Miles Sanders gets in on the action with 60 yards and a touchdown of his own. Trace McSorley also finds Chris Godwin deep on a 50-yard bomb.

The defense allow a couple early scores but then clamp down, forcing four turnovers. Malik Golden and Grant Haley each pick off a pass, while Garrett Sickels carries the momentum of an incredible second half performance against the Buckeyes with two sacks and a forced fumble.