What you need to know: Penn State V. Indiana
Each week, we’ll tell you what to expect, what to keep an eye on, and when and where you can catch the Nittany Lions on fall Saturdays this season.
Need-To-Know Details: Noon kickoff, broadcast on ABC/ESPN2.
Records: Penn State (7-2, 5-1 Big Ten), Indiana (5-4, 3-3 Big Ten).
Venue: Memorial Stadium.
Weather Forecast (via AccuWeather): High of 50 degrees, with a few showers possible.
The Overview: Can Penn State keep it going? The Nittany Lions have handled success by continuing to beat the teams they’re supposed to beat. Up next are the Hoosiers, something of a quirky squad. They oftentimes win when they’re not expected, then lose when they’re matched against an equal or lesser squad. This year, they’re turned the trend around a little bit, standing only one win away from becoming bowl eligible. Chances are they won’t get that victory this weekend, though Indiana has a tendency to surprise people.
On a side note: Indiana’s stadium is distinguishable, in that there’s a child’s-sized football field beyond one of the end zones, named Knothole Park. Kids toss around a football and parents enjoy a Saturday afternoon. Sure, it’d be nice if the Hoosiers won, though the atmosphere isn’t exactly intimidating for opponents.
The Line: Penn State –6.5
All-Time Series: Penn State leads 18-1.
Last Time They Met (2015): Penn State secured a 29-7 victory at Beaver Stadium.
Penn State Wins If: The Nittany Lions once again rise above the indifferent atmosphere. Penn State faced a tremendously similar situation just a few weeks ago, when they traveled to West Lafayette to play Purdue. Granted, Indiana is more competitive, though again, the Lions will go against a lower-tiered team in an underwhelming environment. Against the Boilers, Penn State played to a 17-all tie through a lackadaisical first half before steamrolling to a 62-24 victory. Certainly, Penn State doesn’t have to equal that level of offensive production. But they do need to bring their own level of intensity, or as James Franklin, Saquon Barkley and the rest of the Nittany Lions would say, players have “to bring their own juice.”
Indiana Wins If: They create multiple turnovers — and turn them into points. A lot has to happen for the Hoosiers to win, but this is one area that can quickly equalize the talent disparity that Penn State enjoys. The Nittany Lions have only 12 turnovers this season, and just three interceptions. Indiana will need to flip the field throughout the afternoon, and pressuring quarterback Trace McSorley is one way to do that.
On a side note: Saquon Barkley has now become a Heisman Trophy candidate in some national conversations, and deservedly so. Additionally, McSorley has played outstanding during the Lions’ current five-game winning streak. He’s rushed and passed for a touchdown in four of those contests, has compiled three consecutive games of at least 200 passing yards, and has tossed at least one touchdown in all 10 career contests, which includes the TaxSlayer Bowl against Georgia at the end of last season.
Count On: Some hoops conversation (if you’re watching on TV). Assembly Hall is right beside Memorial Stadium; and the university’s basketball development center, Cook Hall, is also nearby and open on football gamedays. Don’t be surprised if the camera crew visits the center for some b-roll footage and in-game conversation that’s shown during the gridiron battle.
Keep An Eye On: Receiver DaeSean Hamilton. One of the Penn State’s top offensive threats coming into the season, Hamilton has struggled for most of the year. He had that drop late in the loss at Pitt that could’ve led to the winning score, and then had a few more drops against Purdue. A slew of other players have stepped up to provide production, though Hamilton remains capable of exploding for a big-time game every week. Don’t be surprised if it happens Saturday.
Trivia Tidbit of The Week: Penn State had 599 yards of total offense against Iowa, the most since finishing with 661 yards at Rutgers in 1995. The 599 is also the highest total offense output by Penn State versus a Big Ten opponent since 653 yards against Michigan State in 1994.
Saquon Barkley record book watch: Barkley now stands 15th all-time at Penn State with 2,131 yards. The standout sophomore stands one spot behind Charlie Pittman (2,236).
*Season Record: 7-2.
*Season Record Against the Spread: 6-2-1.
Prediction: Penn State 35, Indiana 24
*HappyValley.com season predictions
Photo: Pat Lovell - USA Today Sports