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No. 4 Penn State-Indiana: Game Preview

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Bring on the Hoosiers!

NCAA Football: Indiana at Penn State Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

After a heart-pounding victory at Iowa, Penn State looks to remain unbeaten against the Indiana Hoosiers

(4) Penn State (4-0, 2-0) vs. Indiana (2-1, 0-1)

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m., Beaver Stadium, State College, PA

The Betting Line: Penn State -18

TV: Big Ten Network- Brandon Gaudin (play-by-play), Glen Mason (analyst), Elise Menaker (sideline)

Weather: Sunny with a high of 64 and little chance of rain- basically, a beautiful afternoon for football.

COACHES:

James Franklin:

PENN STATE RECORD: 29-15, 4th Year

OVERALL RECORD: 53-30, 7th Year

VS. INDIANA: 3-0

Tom Allen:

INDIANA RECORD: 2-2, First Year (plus 2016 bowl game)

OVERALL RECORD: Same

VS. PENN STATE: First Meeting

NOW THE FUN PART....

INDIANA OFFENSE VS. PENN STATE DEFENSE

Penn State’s secondary has been nothing short of spectacular, but will receive its biggest test of the season thus far on Saturday. Indiana utilizes a two-quarterback system, with each bringing a different look for the offense.

Senior Richard Lagow is the primary starter. Standing at 6-6 and 240 lbs., Lagow is a dropback passer with a rocket arm who at times is capable of making the type of throws that can be next-to-impossible to defend. Lagow had a standout performance in week one against Ohio State, connecting of 40 of 65 passes for 410 yards, but his production has dropped off in the previous two games for the Hoosiers. On the season, he is completing 58 percent of passes with four touchdowns and three interceptions.

The Hoosiers will also be turning to freshman Peyton Ramsey, who looks to be the starter in Bloomington through 2020. Ramsey is much more mobile of the two as the team’s second-leading rusher, and has seen his playing time increase since the start of the season. In a week two victory over Virginia, Ramsey completed 16 of 20 attempts for 173 yards and two touchdowns, while also rushing for 32 yards and another score. Ramsey has yet to throw an interception through his 31 total attempts, which is an impressive feat for a freshman quarterback.

Indiana has a stud receiver in Simmie Cobbs Jr., who is back after sitting out the 2016 with an injury. Cobbs is similar to Juwan Johnson, a 6-4 target with the speed to stretch the defense and can be a nightmare to defend in single coverage. Through three games, Cobbs has 18 receptions for 228 yards and two touchdowns. Tight end Ian Thomas has come into his own as a senior, becoming a big part of the Hoosiers passing attack. Thomas already has three touchdowns in three games, and obviously plays a large part in the red zone, as well as keeping the chains moving.

Indiana’s rushing attack is led by Morgan Ellison, a freshman with a very high ceiling. A big back at 6-1, 225 lbs., Ellison is a bruiser with some versatility to his game. He is averaging 5.8 yards per carry on the season, and is coming off a 186 yard, two touchdown performance against Georgia Southern.

Indiana has a young offensive line, which could lead to a big day for Penn State’s defensive line which is quickly becoming a force. Defensive end Shareef Miller has especially been spectacular during his first year as a starter, and seems to be developing into Penn State’s most dominant defensive end in years.

INDIANA DEFENSE VS. PENN STATE OFFENSE

Despite Penn State’s eventual 45-31 victory, the Indiana defense did an outstanding job of slowing down the Nittany Lions offense, especially by preventing Saquon Barkley to get much going on the ground. Earlier in the week, bscaff did an excellent job of breaking down how the Hoosiers were able to contain Barkley to a measly 1.76 yards per carry. Expect more of the same again this year- “a bunch of blitzing, stunting, and dudes appearing in gaps out of nowhere,” as bscaff puts it. Whether or not they have the same amount of success is yet to be determined- the Hoosiers find themselves at 102nd nationally in defending the run, allowing nearly 200 yards per game on the ground to teams that do not have Barkley lining up in the backfield.

Expect middle linebacker Tegray Scales to spend plenty of time in Penn State’s backfield. One of the Big Ten’s best defensive players, Scales is a disruptive force who can get after a quarterback and help end a play before it even has a chance to develop. Through three games, he has 26 tackles, 2.5 TFLs and 0.5 sacks.

Indiana was hindered by an inexperienced secondary the last two years. The experience has now paid off, as the Hoosiers feature a veteran secondary led by Rashard Fant, one of the best cornerbacks the Nittany Lions will face this season. Opposing quarterbacks often avoid Fant’s side of the field, and don’t be surprised to see him matched-up with Juwan Johnson, following the sophomore’s breakout performance against Iowa.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Griffin Oakes is entering his fourth season as Indiana’s kicker, and has started off by connecting on all three of his field goal attempts, including a 51-yarder against Virginia. Sophomore punter Haydon Whitehead is an Australian-style kicker with a booming leg. He is averaging 42.2 yards per punt and regularly blasts 50-plus yard kicks.

Penn State’s field goal unit is off to a poor start, and James Franklin specifically mentioned some shifts in personnel to alleviate the issue. After being nearly perfect in 2016, Tyler Davis is just four of eight on field goal attempts on the season. This includes two kicks that were wide, a miss that was the result of a poor snap and hold, as well as a crucial blocked attempt late in the game against Iowa.

Barkley will again be back to return kickoffs, with Miles Sanders reliving him as needed. Either seems destined to break one for a touchdown at some point this season.

Indiana has an incredibly dangerous punt returner in J-Shun Harris II, who has already taken two returns to the house in three games. Fortunately, Penn State punter Blake Gillkin has the leg to get some serious hang time if the Nittany Lions opt to even kick it to Harris at all.

PREDICTION

Penn State- 38 Indiana-20

With all the highs of Penn State’s magical late-season run to a Big Ten Championship, it’s easy to forgot just how close Indiana came to handing Penn State a defeat that would have prevented all this from happening. Sure, this was last year, but Indiana returns many key players and has a penchant for playing up to the level of any highly-ranked teams on its schedule.

I do think Indiana will have some success by dinking-and-dunking down the field for a couple of scores. While Penn State’s defense should control the line of scrimmage, Indiana has the playmakers to move the ball. Indiana will find enough productivity to keep things interesting, but at some point in the second half, the Nittany Lions defense will tighten up, and cause a couple turnovers that the offense then capitalizes on to pull ahead for good.

Trace McSorley puts up 310 yards through the air and three touchdowns, and adds another with his legs. Mike Gesicki gets back on track with 80 yards receiving and a score, and Saquon does Saquon things, with 250 yards from scrimmage. On defense, Shareef Miller keeps up his frenetic pace with 2.5 sacks, while Ryan Buchholz forces a fumble and Lamont Wade picks off a pass and nearly takes it all the way back for six.