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No.12 Penn State vs. Purdue: Game Preview

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A banged up Boilermakers squad heads to Happy Valley as the Nittany Lions come off an eye-opening victory.

NCAA Football: Penn State at Purdue Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State looks to remain unbeaten as it welcomes a beat-up Boilermakers squad to Happy Valley for Homecoming weekend.

(#12) Penn State (4-0) vs. Purdue (1-3)

Kickoff: Noon, Beaver Stadium, State College, PA

The Betting Line: Penn State -23.5

TV: ESPN - Bob Wischusen (play-by-play), Dan Orlovsky (analyst), Allison Williams (sideline)

Weather: A somewhat cool but otherwise beautiful, sunny fall day with a high of 59 and no precipitation expected.

COACHES:

James Franklin:

PENN STATE RECORD: 49-21, 6th Year

OVERALL RECORD: 73-36, 9th Year

VS. PURDUE: 1-0

Jeff Brohm:

PURDUE RECORD: 14-16, 3rd Season

OVERALL RECORD: 44-26, 6th Season

VS. PENN STATE: First Meeting

NOW THE FUN PART....

PURDUE OFFENSE VS. PENN STATE DEFENSE

Let’s start off with the bad news for our friends in West Lafayette — the Boilermakers are an extremely banged up team right now, and will be without several key players on both sides of the ball. The injuries have hit the offense especially hard, as it will be without starting quarterback Elijah Sindelar for some time after he suffered a broken clavicle, as well as wideout Rondale Moore, who is easily one of the nation’s most electric playmakers. Both were injured on the same play last week against Minnesota, and the losses will be substantial as Purdue prepares for an extremely fast and physical defense. Furthermore, receiver Jared Sparks and his 18.8 yards per catch will also be out.

With Sindelar’s absence, redshirt freshman Jack Plummer steps into the starting quarterback role. It’s obvious Plummer is still learning on the job in a season where he was supposed to sit and learn as Sindelar’s backup. With two games under his belt, Plummer is completing 51 percent of his passes for 426 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions. He showed improvement against Minnesota after a poor outing against TCU, but still had two interceptions against the Gophers.

Moore has nearly twice as many receptions as any other Boilermaker. It wasn’t just that he was a playmaker, but someone Purdue looked to early and often as the focal point of the offense. Freshman David Bell will get more looks, and was ready to answer the call last week with eight catches for 114 yards. Bell, who is averaging 17.9 yards per catch, also had a nice outing against Vanderbilt during which he amassed 82 receiving yards. Fellow freshman Amad Anderson Jr. has also been a reliable target, contributing 15 receptions thus far. Senior tight end Brycen Hopkins is a big target at 6-foot-5-inches, 245 pounds. He had three touchdown receptions in the first two games, but has been shut out of the end zone the last two weeks.

Purdue has been splitting carries between freshman King Doerue and sophomore and Zander Horvath, although it seems as though Doerue has been grafdually playing a larger part of the offense with Horvath’s carries declining. Doerue is coming off a breakout performance after rumbling for 94 yards and two touchdowns. Horvath had just one carry, but is a large, bruising back who can excel in short-yardage situations and wear down a defense. It should be noted that Purdue is averaging a measly 68.3 yards per game on the ground, and will have a hard time matching even that low number against Penn State’s front seven.

PENN STATE OFFENSE VS. PURDUE DEFENSE

Purdue’s defense has also been hit with the injury bug, with All-Big Ten Honorable Mention defensive tackle Lorenzo Neal still recovering from knee surgery. Although the defense is much better shape than the offense personnel-wise, its struggled to keep points off the board. In the three losses for the season, the Boilermakers gave up at least 34 points each to Nevada, TCU and Minnesota.

The Boilermakers had an especially difficult time against the pass, giving up nearly 300 passing yards per game, meaning Sean Clifford may be in store for his second-consecutive 300-plus yard game. The rushing defense is slightly better, but still yields 154.5 yards per game, putting them at 78th nationally.

True freshman defensive end George Karlafitis is a star in the making, already emerging as the team’s most disruptive defender. The five-star (247Sports), top-50 prospect already has three sacks and five tackles for loss, leading the team in both categories. Fifth-year senior Ben Holt has made a huge impact since transferring from Western Kentucky, leading the team with 44 tackles - more than double anyone else on the team. Defensive tackle Anthony Watts can really move for someone coming in at over 300 lbs., and has two sacks and three TFLs.

Penn State’s offense should continue to build it’s identity on Saturday by having Clifford spread the ball out among his many options, while getting carries to each of the four #LawnBoyz.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Penn State’s has experienced a remarkable turnaround on special teams and will look to continue against Purdue. Jake Pinegar has hit all four of his field goal attempts, while Jordan Stout has nailed two 50-plus yard attempts and rarely allows the opportunity for a kickoff return. KJ Hamler is one of the best return men in the nation, and Blake Gillikin and the punt cover team have been excellent through four games.

PREDICTION

Penn State-45 , Purdue-10

Prior to the start of the season, I thought this would make for an interesting game with Penn State possibly being in danger of dropping a Homecoming game. After four games though, it’s clear that Penn State is playing at a different level than Purdue. For the Nittany Lions, many of the new faces have arrived in a big way. The Boilermakers, on the other hand, clearly have a longer rebuilding year than expected a year after receiving plenty of hype for pulling off the upset of the year by steamrolling Ohio State.

On top of Purdue not being quite as good as expected, things are looking even worse for their chances on Saturday thanks to some key injuries. Not only will the Boilermakers have to rely on a freshman quarterback, they’ll also be without their primary playmaker that they rely on to make the offense (and special teams) go.

The key for the Nittany Lions is to jump out to a fast start, just like they did on Friday against Maryland. If they can jump out to an early 14-0 lead, Purdue will need to rely on Plummer to somehow have a strong outing against one of the nation’s best defenses with 107,000 screaming fans making things very difficult for him. If the Nittany Lions defense can pin their ears back and go after him, it’s going to be a long and painful afternoon for the Boilermakers offense with very little production.

Sean Clifford has another big outing, tossing for 340 yards and three touchdowns. K.J. Hamler has another long catch-and-run to get the Beaver Stadium crowd going, and Pat Freiermuth comes up with a couple scores of his own. On defense, Micah Parsons takes advantage of his unexpected time off to come in fresh and raise hell, getting a strip sack and 10 tackles, with John Reid and Garrett Taylor each picking off a pass. The good guys roll an a beautiful Homecoming afternoon.