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2021 Opponent Snapshot: Indiana Hoosiers

Week 5 marks the official start of the Big Ten schedule, and a chance for revenge.

Maryland v Indiana Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Quick 2020 Recap

The Hoosiers started the season 4-0, including a controversial season-opening 36-35 win against the Nittany Lions. Hype continued to grow as they took down Rutgers, Michigan, and Michigan State, before losing a hotly contested tussle in Columbus. Indiana rebounded to win the last two games of the regular season, but fell in the Outback Bowl to Ole Miss 26-20 to finish the season 6-2.

Offensive Player to Watch: QB Michael Penix, Jr.

It was tempting not to go with Ty Fryfogle here, but after coming to my senses, Penix is the clear choice. The redshirt junior was named second team All-Big Ten, throwing for 1645 yards and 14 touchdowns, and dove the ball out of bounds scored the game-winning two-point conversion against Penn State. After losing his top receiver Whop Philyor and top running back Stevie Scott to the NFL, Penix will need to be the unquestioned playmaker for Indiana to challenge in the Big Ten East.

Defensive Player to Watch: DB Jaylin Williams

Indiana has a lot of returning players on a defense that led the conference in interceptions and sacks last season. Williams tied for the team lead (and was eighth nationally) with four interceptions in 2020, and was second-team All-Big Ten. Against receivers like Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson, Jahan Dotson, Parker Washington, and more, every team’s secondary cannot miss a step in coverage. The senior will be joined by graduate student Marcelino McCrary-Ball, who missed 2020 with an ACL injury. Special mention also to the Hoosiers’ two All-Americans, linebacker Micah McFadden and defensive back Tiawan Mullen.

Major Changes for 2021:

Indiana has a new defensive coordinator in Charlton Warren. Warren was rated the 11th ranked recruiter in the country, and has coaching experience at Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Nebraska, and Air Force. They also added several transfers, including DL Weston Kramer from Northern Illinois, Ryder Anderson from Ole Miss, and Jaren Handy from Auburn, RB Stephen Carr from USC, WR Camron Buckley from Texas A&M, and OL Zach Carpenter from Michigan.

Penn State Wins If:

They force Pennix to beat them with his arm, and don’t turn the ball over.

As is often the case with teams with mobile quarterbacks, Penn State lost contain against both Pennix and Scott several times, but their real downfall came from turning the ball over. Sean Clifford threw two picks last year, and Will Levis lost a fumble in the red zone, so as long as the Nittany Lions can hold onto the ball, they should come out with the victory.

Indiana Wins If:

They force turnovers, and keep the Penn State defense off balance.

If Pennix can run the read option effectively, and be accurate with his throws, Indiana may be able to keep the ball long enough to tire out the defense in the late stages, setting the table for a second straight win in the series.