Blue White Illustrated's staff makes its picks as the Nittany Lions get set to tangle with Indiana this weekend at Beaver Stadium. Who do we think has the edge? Learn more, here!
Nate Bauer - Blue White Illustrated Editor (2017 Record: 4-0)
Indiana's inability to stop the run spells trouble for the Hoosiers this weekend in Happy Valley, in my opinion.
The first line of defense to keeping Penn State out of the end zone is by committing to keeping Saquon Barkley at bay and forcing Trace McSorley to make plays with his arm, and the Hoosiers have not been great to that end previously this season, allowing nearly 200 yards per game on the ground.
After a down-and-up Saturday night in Iowa City, McSorley figures to be looking for an improved performance in front of a friendlier crowd at Beaver Stadium. And even though the Hoosiers have been reasonably successful at limiting explosive plays, the second half of that Ohio State game to start the season showed what happens when elite athletes find some space and get going.
Simmie Cobbs and Richard Lagow are likely to ensure Penn State's corners will have their work cut out for them, though, so unlike the Hawkeyes' anemic attack that still managed three touchdowns, I expect the Hoosiers to have some more success than maybe Penn State fans are anticipating. Tempo could also be a problem, as Penn State head coach James Franklin indicated during his midweek press conference after practice, indicating that they spent time with the first and second team offenses trying to duplicate that uptempo attack that the Hoosiers have been so proficient at.
Like last year's game, this one figures to be entertaining, but the Nittany Lions will pull away in the second half.
Penn State 41
Tim Owen - Blue White Illustrated Assistant Editor (2017 Record: 4-0)
Indiana is a team not to be taken lightly. With a variable-tempo offense run by a variation of two quarterbacks, flanked by two towering wide receivers, its offense can strike and strike often. After it scored seven touchdowns a week ago against Georgia Southern, there is some momentum in its favor too. With a new head coach in charge now, along with an All-America linebacker roaming the field too, the Hoosiers are supposed to finally have a defense that can match the firepower the other side of the ball.
Through three games, however, that hasn’t been the case.
Indiana has been allowing more rushing yards than any other team in the conference – and that is even playing one fewer game than half the other teams. No matter how potent Indiana’s passing attack might be, no matter how developed the ground game has become, if Indiana’s defense can’t keep other opponents below 200 yards on the ground, then that’s not happening in Beaver stadium Saturday afternoon either.
I'm feeling much more confident in a Penn State win here than I did a month ago when Indiana pushed Ohio State for three quarters with a potent passing attack and a defensive effort that you hadn't really seen from IU teams of the past. The following week it beat Virginia by a couple of touchdowns and held their offense largely in check. Since then, however, a wave of injuries have impacted Tom Allen's D. Indiana's offense is going to be the most aggressive test for Penn State so far this season, it'll score points, but with a limping defense across the field I don't see it scoring enough to match the pace of PSU at home.
A year ago, Indiana contained Saquon Barkley to fewer than 60 yards rushing. The Heisman candidate is looking for more this time out – a lot more. Following last week’s show at Iowa, look for him to bring it back home this weekend and put up another highlight-reel performance against a defense that is reeling. On the other side of the ball, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Hoosiers become the first opponent to break 20 points against the Nittany Lions this season. They might even break 30. Neither will be enough.
Penn State 51
Ryan Snyder - Blue White Illustrated Recruiting Analyst (2017 Record: 4-0)
Penn State’s run at a second consecutive Big Ten Championship and a potential birth in the College Football Playoff is still alive and well following a thriller in Iowa City last weekend against the Hawkeyes. Now, the Nittany Lions are set to host its first Big Ten East opponent in Indiana.
Last year, the Hoosiers gave the Lions a real battle in Bloomington, leading in the third quarter before PSU scored 24 points in the fourth to pull away with a 45-31 victory. Earlier this season, Indiana had a similar performance against Ohio State, leading at halftime before the Buckeyes came alive in the second half.
Saturday, I expect to see something similar. In recent years, Indiana has had issues closing out opponents once they get a lead, so a fast start will once again be important for the Lions. That shouldn’t be a major issue for the offense, especially when you consider that the Hoosiers are allowing opponents to average just under 200 yards rushing through three games this season, worst in the Big Ten. I expect Saquon Barkley to have another excellent performance, especially now the rest of the nation is watching him closely as a legitimate Heisman Trophy contender.
Indiana’s offense is dependent on a solid passing game, which should work in Penn State’s favor, as its secondary is one of the team’s strengths this year. The Hoosiers also rank 13th in the Big Ten in rushing, so Penn State’s front six should be able to keep RB Morgan Ellison in check. That’ll allow Marcus Allen, Grant Haley and the rest of the defensive backs to focus on the passing game.
Penn State is 19-1 all-time against the Hoosiers. The Lions have also covered the spread - PSU is an 18 point favorite Saturday - in eight of its last 10 Big Ten games, so anything short of double-digit victory should be considered a letdown. I expect the offense to get back on track in the red zone Saturday, but don’t be surprised if the Hoosiers put up a few points in the first half.
Penn State - 45
Indiana - 20