Penn State heads to Bloomington to try to win its sixth consecutive game and maintain its top 10 ranking.
(10)Penn State (7-2, 5-1) vs. Indiana (5-4, 3-3)
Kickoff: Noon, Memorial Stadium, Bloomington, IN
The Betting Line: Penn State -7
TV: ABC/ESPN2- Bob Wischusen (play-by-play), Brock Huard (analyst), Allison Williams (sideline)
Weather: Cool, with temperatures in the upper-40s at kickoff with little to no chance of precipitation.
PENN STATE RECORD: 21-14, 3rd Year
OVERALL RECORD: 45-29, 6th Year
VS. INDIANA: 2-0
INDIANA RECORD: 25-45, 6th Year
OVERALL RECORD: Same
VS. PENN STATE: 1-4
...NOW THE FUN PART
INDIANA OFFENSE VS PENN STATE DEFENSE
Indiana runs a well-balanced attack that, similar to Penn State, attempts to keep defenses off balance by distributing the ball among many playmakers. However, the one standout on the Hoosiers offense is running back Devine Redding. The productive junior has compiled nearly 800 yards on the ground this season, with four games where he’s exceeded 100 yards rushing. He’s also a threat as a receiver, which could be a problem for Penn State’s defense considering their struggles to defend backs out of the backfield at times. Quarterback/athlete Zander Diamont could also pose a threat with his explosive presence. Diamont adds a dangerous wrinkle to the Hoosiers offense and recently rushed for 104 yards and two touchdowns against Maryland. Freshman Devonte Williams is another speedy option who could see his workload increase in the final stanza of the 2016 season.
Quarterback Richard Lagow is very similar to Purdue’s David Blough- a tall dropback passer with an accurate arm that also comes with a penchant for turnovers. On the season, Lagow has completed 61.4 percent of his passes, with 15 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Lagow has the ability to air it out when called upon, recording 317 passing yards against Northwestern, 394 at Rutgers and 496 against Wake Forest. At 6-6 and 240 lbs. he is not very mobile in the pocket, and has yet to record a game with positive rushing yards. Expect defensive coordinator Brent Pry to dial up blitzes from all angles to try to force Lagow into some poor decisions.
Lagow makes great use of a young and talented receiving corps, making it difficult for defenses to key in on any single receiver. Mitchell Paige, Nick Westbrook and Ricky Jones all have 40-plus receptions on the season, with Westbrook leading the team with 708 receiving yards. Paige has the hot hand, coming off a 100 yard performance against Rutgers.
Penn State’s young defense seems to improve with each week, and has especially surged with the return of linebackers Brandon Bell and Jason Cabinda in the past three games. While Indiana will present many challenges, it’s another opportunity for the Penn State defense to prove it is quickly becoming a dominating unit.
It should be noted that Indiana’s offense has struggled with the better defenses on its schedule, producing 17 points at Ohio State, 22 against Nebraska and just 14 against Northwestern. All three games were losses.
INDIANA DEFENSE VS PENN STATE OFFENSE
After years of futility that spanned several coaching staffs, Indiana’s defense has finally moved from “trainwreck” to “slightly above average,” and is on its way to catching up with an offense that has very productive in recent years. But there’s still some work to be done. The Hoosiers are right above the midpoint in many defensive categories on the season- 60th nationally in rush defense (165.0 yards per game), 61st in pass defense (225.1 yards per game) and 61st in scoring defense (26.6 points per game). Considering the Hoosiers don’t have one glaring weakness, expect Penn State to do what they do best- attack with the read option, and throw the ball downfield once the defense is focused on stopping the run. Also, plenty of Saquon Barkley running to the outside, where as we all know by now, he’s a threat to take it to the house at any moment. Also expect some touches by freshman Miles Sanders, whose role has been increasing more and more each week.
Keep an eye out for junior outside linebacker Tegray Scales, who has developed into a complete force for the Hoosiers defense. Scales is averaging nearly 10 tackles per game with 11 tackles for loss and three sacks on the season. Linebacker Marcus Oliver also has a penchant for making plays in the backfield and has already forced four fumbles on the season.
Indiana has an experienced secondary, which may limit Trace McSorley’s ability to throw the ball deep once the back four has been forced to focus on supporting the run.
The Hoosiers return All-Big Ten kicker Griffin Oakes, although he has performed well under expectations this season. He has connected on just 11 of 20 field goal attempts with a long of 49. He’s missed all three 50-yard plus attempts, and is two of four from the 30-39 range. Punter Joseph Gedeon has a solid 40.2 average with a long of 57 yards.
Tyler Davis missed his second career field goal last week against Iowa, which was the result of another low kick. He quickly brushed it off and nailed his other two attempts of the night. Blake Gilliken continues to impress at punter. The true freshmen has given the Nittany Lions something it hasn’t had in years- a punter with a booming leg who can regularly flip the field.
DeAndre Thompkins has returned as Penn State’s punt returner. Thompkins saw time back deep as a redshirt freshman in 2015, but eventually lost the spot to Greg Garrity after fumbling issues. A year later, and the coaching staff is comfortable using Thompkins as the primary returner once again, which is great news considering his outstanding speed and elusiveness. Miles Sanders has become the man on kickoff returns, and seems poised to break one for a touchdown at some point this season.
Penn State-45, Indiana-21
For weeks, I’ve been expecting a letdown from Penn State. This seems to be a natural expectation that comes with such a youthful team. But they have convinced me that they have maturity beyond their years. This is one focused football team.
It’s become obvious that behind the scenes this team has tremendous focus. They assuredly step on the practice field each Monday with full concentration of beating the next opponent on the schedule and not allowing them to get caught up in the success of the previous week.
I’d normally expect to see a team sleepwalking throughout the afternoon with a noon kickoff at Indiana. Not this team. While I can see a similar first half to Purdue where they need time to adjust, I expect the Nittany Lions to have another big day and the defense to go into lockdown mode after giving up a couple quick scores.
Barkley gains more than 200 all-purpose yards yet again to go with two touchdowns, which Saeed Blacknall leads the team in receiving yards and finds the end zone again this week. On defense, Kevin Givens picks up two sacks while Jason Cabinda has a big afternoon with 14 tackles.