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No. 9 Penn State vs. No. 24 Indiana: Game Preview

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Penn State looks to bounce back against a ranked Indiana squad.

NCAA Football: Penn State at Indiana Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State seeks a different outcome as they face another team that’s been a surprise success in 2019.

(#9) Penn State (8-1, 5-1) vs. (#24) Indiana (7-2, 4-2)

Kickoff: Noon, Beaver Stadium, State College, PA

The Betting Line: Penn State -14

TV: ABC - James Benetti (play-by-play), Rod Gilmore (analyst), Quint Kessenich (sideline)

Weather: A sunny but cold day, with lows in the teens during the morning and inching up around the freezing mark throughout the afternoon.

COACHES:

James Franklin:

PENN STATE RECORD: 53-22, 6th Year

OVERALL RECORD: 77-37, 9th Year

VS. INDIANA: 5-0

Tom Allen:

INDIANA RECORD: 17-17, 3rd Season

OVERALL RECORD: Same

VS. PENN STATE: 0-2

NOW THE FUN PART....

INDIANA OFFENSE VS. PENN STATE

Indiana will be without starting quarterback Michael Penix Jr. at the helm. The freshman standout was lost for the season during the Nov. 2 victory against Northwestern. In his place is Peyton Ramsey, who has no shortage of experience. Ramsey was the team’s starter in 2018 before losing the battle to Penix Jr. during the preseason.

Ramsey has been a more than competent in his role behind Penix Jr., performing well whenever inserted into the lineup. He’s shown command for the offense when given extensive time, going 13 of 14 against Eastern Illinois, 23 of 27 against UCONN, and 20 of 27 against Maryland. He had his most prolific day of the season against Nebraska, tossing for 351 yards and a touchdown. Ramsey is also the team’s second leading rusher with 122 yards on the ground.

Ramsey performed well against the Nittany Lions in 2018, completing 26 of 36 for 236 yards and a touchdown and interception apiece. It was his only game without positive rushing yards, finishing with -5 (mostly due to Shaka Toney’s fourth quarter heroics). He also appeared in the 2017 game at Penn State, competing 8 of 17 passes for 78 yards, this time picking up 53 rushing yards.

Ramsey will be relying on junior Whop Philyor, who has nearly double as many receptions as any other Hoosier. Philyor doesn’t have the size that has given Penn State’s secondary trouble at times this season, but has the ability to take over a game. He’s been especially hot of late, with three games of at least 142 receiving yards in the last five weeks. Junior Ty Frofogle is a steady presence, and has the size the cause some concern. Peyton Henderson is one of the top pass-catching tight ends in the Big Ten and can do some damage when left unchecked.

Stevie Scott III is the Hoosier’s workhorse back, and has been the catalyst for the Hoosiers offense during the current four-game winning streak. Scott has contributed three 100-plus rushing days in three of those four contests, showing a marked improvement from the first half of the season. He’s also used sparingly in the passing game, and can add a dangerous option on third downs.

Penn State’s defense knows exactly who the Hoosiers will be looking to get the ball to on Saturday. However, this was also true a week ago and the Nittany Lions still allowed Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman to go off for 203 receiving yards and a score. They’ll need to do a much better job of taking Philyor and Scott out of the game on Saturday, forcing Ramsey to look to other receivers and attempt to pick up yardage with his legs.

PENN STATE OFFENSE VS. INDIANA DEFENSE

As the Hoosiers have looked to turn the corner during the past couple decades, the story has mostly stayed the same- the Hoosiers must build a prolific offense that can overcome a defense that gives up a lot of points. Despite a 7-2 record, this still hasn’t changed much. In recent weeks, the Indiana has snuck past Maryland 34-28 and Nebraska 38-31, as well as a week one 34-24 victory against Ball State. They were also on the wrong side of one of these games against Michigan State (of all teams), losing 41-30. They’ve also shut down several offenses, holding UCONN and Northwestern to just a field goal apiece and shutting out Rutgers - although those offenses haven’t been able to find much success against anyone.

Indiana has one of the best safeties in the Big Ten in Marcelino Ball, an experienced leader who has been a starter since his freshman season in 2016. Ball had one of his best games a season ago against the Nittany Lions, finishing with 10 tackles, 1.5 TFLs and .5 sacks. Middle linebacker Micah McFadden has emerged in his sophomore season, leading the team with 42 tackles and six TFLs. Reakwon Jones is another standout at linebacker, just behind McFadden with 41 tackles. Defensive tackle Demarcus Elliott can be a major headache for the interior line. Elliot moves very well for 328 lbs., often getting into the backfield to stop a play before it can get moving.

One thing the Hoosiers defense does well overall is making plays in the backfield. Indiana likes to bring pressure from different areas to create confusion, leading to many of these plays putting the offense in a bad situation and ultimately killing drives. Penn State’s offense will need to avoid this trap on first downs to keep drives moving and not force the defense to stay on the field for too long. If this happens, the Hoosiers have the playmakers on offense to produce.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Indiana has one of the best kickers in the nation in Logan Justus, who may spend his evenings fighting crime in the general Bloomingtom vicinity with a name like that. Justus is a perfect 12 of 12 on field goal attempts this season with a long of 50 yards. He’s also made 34 of 35 extra points. Punter Hayden Whitehead has a big leg, while also doing a nice job of pinning teams back. While he has regular punts of 50 and 60-plus yards, he’s also placed half of his punts inside the 20.

The Hoosiers have not had much excitement in the return game. Freshman David Ellis is averaging 19.6 yards per kick return with a long of 33. Whop Philyor averages 4.7 yards per punt return with a long of 11.

Penn State’s Blake Gillikin has been performing as well about any other punter in the nation as of late, averaging 42.4 yards per attempt. Kicker Jake Pinegar connected on both field goal attempts at Minnesota, bringing him to seven of eight for the season.

PREDICTION

Penn State-38, Indiana-24

If you look closely, there are several similarities between Indiana and Minnesota that should cause concern. Both teams come in much better than could have been predicted prior to the season. Both have efficient, accurate quarterbacks, a star receiver and a running back that’s been churning out 100-yard games. Both have defenses that may lack the overall star power, but have been able to lock down opposing offenses when they needed to to secure a win.

The reason the loss to the Gophers was so heart-wrenching is that you could point to a few dozen individual mistakes, missed opportunities or blown calls that would have made the difference between remaining undefeated or dropping the game. Something tells me the team comes out focused, with a greater sense of urgency and refusing to let any opportunities slip away this time.

Sean Clifford bounces back with 280 yards and four total touchdowns, tossing two to Pat Freiermuth. KJ Hamler does KJ Hamler things with 110 yards receiving on the day, while adding a long momentum-shifting kickoff return that leads to a score. Journey Brown has another big day, rumbling for 120 yards and a touchdown to take advantage of the extended carries for the second week in a row.

Indiana picks up a few things on film from Minnesota to keep the defense on its toes, but the Nittany Lions make adjustmentments to shut down the Hoosiers when it matters most. Micah Parsons finishes with 13 tackles and a sack, Garrett Taylor halts a drive with a key interception, and Shaka Toney gets in Ramsey’s face with a couple sacks for old times sake.