The Nittany Lions are hoping to bounce back following its second loss of the season.
(#16)Penn State (6-2, 3-2) vs. Indiana (3-5, 1-4)
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m., Memorial Stadium, Bloomington, IN
The Betting Line: Penn State -14 (Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.)
TV: ABC, 3:30 p.m. - Bob Wischusen (play-by-play), Dan Orlovsky (analyst), Kris Budden (sideline)
Weather: A cloudy day with showers and wind gusts around 25 mph with temperatures in the low 60s and falling throughout the game. Basically, a good one to watch from the comfort of your couch.
PENN STATE RECORD: 73-36, 9th Year
OVERALL RECORD: 97-51, 12th Year
VS. INDIANA: 7-1
INDIANA RECORD: 29-37, 6th Year
OVERALL RECORD: 29-37, 6th Year
VS. PENN STATE: 1-4
This is the 26th meeting in series history, with Penn State holding a 23-2 advantage...The Nittany Lions and Hoosiers had not met on the gridiron until Penn State joined the Big Ten in 1993...the Nittany Lions won the first 16 games of the series until the Hoosiers finally came out on top in 2013 with a 44-24 victory...Penn State is 17-3 all-time in games played on November 5, including a 35-29 win against the Hoosiers in 1994...the Nittany Lions shut out the Pittsburgh Athletic Club 16-0 on Nov. 5, 1892.
INDIANA OFFENSE VS. PENN STATE DEFENSE
A week after facing college football’s most impressive collection of talent on offense, the Nittany Lions face a much less explosive unit on Saturday. The Hoosiers rely heavily on the arm of quarterback Connor Bazelak, which has not led to much success. Bazelak has at least 42 pass attempts in seven of eight games this season, with the sole exception being 29 tosses in a week two victory over FCS Idaho. His numbers have dipped from a year ago, with his competion percentage at 54.9 and his yards per attempt at 5.5. Bazelak had by far his best outing of the season two weeks ago agaisnt Maryland, going 29-of-42 for 292 yards and three touchdowns. However, he also had two interceptions, and his TD:INT ratio is currently at 12:9. He followed up the Maryland game by going 24-of-42 for 210 yards and no touchdowns against Rutgers.
Indiana suffered a huge loss last week when Cam Camper tore his ACL, ending his season. Camper was by far Bazelak’s top target with 46 receptions — 17 more than the Hoosiers second-leading receiver, Emery Simmons. Camper was in his first year at the FBS level as a JUCO transfer, and it didn’t take him long to show he belonged with a season-opening 11-catch, 156 yard performance against Illinois. He also had 10 catches for 126 yards against Cincinnati. UNC transfer running back Josh Henderson has been active out of the backfield, with 17 catches and three touchdowns through the air. Tight end AJ Barner is used in short passing situations - and sometimes, very short. He had one of the more interesting stat lines of the season by gaining just 11 yards on five receptions against Rutgers.
The Hoosiers offensive line has struggled to get much going on the ground, averaging just 80.2 yards per game. They have also allowed 23 sacks on the season - an average of 2.88 per game.
PENN STATE OFFENSE VS. INDIANA DEFENSE
The Hoosiers are bad at stopping the run, and even worse at stopping the pass. However, Penn State’s offense will still need to avoid its typically slow starts in Bloomington.
Senior linebacker Aaron Casey can cause problems, and regularly creates big plays to keep the Hoosiers in the game. He leads the team in tackles and TFLs by a wide margin, and has also forced two fumbles. Casey has been credited with 1.5 sacks and two quarterback hurries, but regulalry impacts plays with his pass rush that may not show up on the stat sheet. The Hoosiers also have a rising star in true freshman Dasan McCullough. The outside linebacker is relentless off the edge, and has four sacks and 5.5 TFLs, as well as regularly forcing poor throws.
The Hoosiers have picked off only five passes this season, with no defender having more that one. In one weakness vs. weakness match-up that could become crucial - Indiana is allowing opponents to convert 41.7% of third downs (95th nationally), while Penn State converts just 35.6% of the time on third down (98th nationally).
The Hoosiers special teams are in good hands with kicker Charles Campbell and punter James Evans. Campbell is 12 of 15 on the season, with a long of 51 yards. He’s connected on all 61 of his career extra points. Evans is averaging 44.5 yards per punt with a long of 61 yards. He’s had 16 punts travel more than 50 yards, and 16 pinned down inside the 20.
Indiana also has the Big Ten’s top kick return unit. This is mostly due to freshman running back Jaylin Lucas, who is averaging 30.89 yards per pop, including a 91-yard touchdown return.
Penn State-31, Indiana-13*
The first half of this game seems to foreshadow the reminder of the season. If the team comes out motivated, they should be able to reel off four wins to close the season, getting to 10-2 and a likely NY6 Bowl destination. If they come out listless, there could be another loss or two ahead, and yet another late-season collapse.
I’m going with the former for two main reasons - this team seems to have outstanding leadership and resolve and will show up ready, despite the previous week’s heartbreak. The other is that this is a total match-up nightmare for the Hoosiers, especially with their pass-heavy offense that also gives up turnovers and sacks way too often. Despite the regular slow starts in Bloomington, the tenacity of the defense should be contagious, getting the team in the right headspace to play to their ability and easily take down the Hoosiers.
Penn State jumps out to an early lead, the Hoosiers do enough to make it competitive heading into the half, before Clifford, Washing, Allen, Singleton, etc., put together some big plays to put the game out of reach in the third quarter.
*If the conditions are like the Northwestern game I’m going 21-7, good guys.