After a bye week that included news of QB Michael Penix’s season-ending injury, the Hoosiers face off against James Franklin’s talented Penn State Squad in Happy Valley. Tom Allen’s group has now won 4 straight games and looks to drive that momentum into Happy Valley and their wild, rowdy crowd. The Hoosiers are ranked for the first time since September 20th, 1994. Penn State is no stranger to being ranked, however, as they’re currently 9th in the AP Top 25 after suffering an upset loss to Minnesota.
How to Watch: Indiana Hoosiers versus Penn State Nittany Lions
|Who||Week 12: Indiana Hoosiers versus Penn State Nittany Lions|
|When||12 PM ET / Saturday, November 16th, 2019|
|Where||Beaver Stadium – University Park, PA|
|Tickets||Find the Lowest Ticket Prices on SeatGeek|
|Watch||ABC (WatchESPN site and app)|
|Listen||IU Radio Network|
|Spread||PSU -14.5 / Over-Under: 54|
Meet the Nittany Lions
Penn State (8-1, 5-1 Big Ten) hosts the Hoosiers after suffering a major loss to the Gophers, knocking them out of the top 4. Penn State is no longer tied with Ohio State at the top of the Big Ten East, which is interesting because many thought the tie would’ve been broken during their contest on November 23rd in Columbus.
Potential Big Ten Coach of the Year James Franklin welcomes the Hoosiers to town. Franklin, in his sixth season, has an impressive 53-22 record with Penn State, and he has the Nittany Lions in the late-season conference and CFP discussion for the first time since 2016.
The Nittany Lions enter this weekend’s game with only one loss this year, coming last week to Minnesota. According to Sagarin, they are 3-1 against top 30 teams, and they’ve faced their fair share of tough teams, having the 23rd toughest schedule in the nation.
Get to Know the Penn State Nittany Lions
Key Offensive Players
Penn State ranks 43rd overall for total offense in the FBS, 9 spots behind the Hoosiers. Their offense averages an impressive 37.1 points per game, which is 18th in FBS. Sophomore QB Sean Clifford runs James Franklin’s high-octane offense. This season, Clifford has thrown for 2,271 yards, 21 TDs, and six INTs while boasting a 60.6% completion rate. The Heisman candidate took a hit against the Gophers, however, throwing only 1 TD and 3 untimely interceptions.
Assisting Clifford in the passing game is sophomore KJ Hamler. He’s totaled 739 receiving yards (4th in B1G) and 8 TDs (3rd). In the loss against the Gophers last week, he kept his team in the game with an impressive 7 catches for 119 yards. Sophomore 6’5″, 256 lb. TE Pat Freiermuth already has 15 career TDs and will test the Hoosiers in the red zone.
The Nittany Lions’ running game is a two-headed monster featuring Journey Brown and Noah Cain. Cain suffered a left leg injury against Michigan State and did not play against Minnesota last week. Brown was the featured back last week, with 124 yards rushing and 2 TDs on just 14 carries. This year, he’s logged 421 rushing yards on just 65 carries, which is an astronomical 6.5 yard rushing average.
Key Defensive Players
Penn State’s defense is phenomenal this year as they’re ranked 5th in team defense in FBS. They’ve only allowed 12 points per game and 300.4 yards per game, which is 13th in the nation. Penn State has the 3rd best rushing defense, only allowing 74.7 yards on the ground per game. However, their pass defense is ranked 63rd, so if the Hoosiers look to break through the Penn State defense, it may be through the arm of Peyton Ramsey.
Specific players to watch for are defensive ends Yetur Gross-Matos and Shaka Toney. They each lead the team in sacks with 5.5.Freshman defensive end Jayson Oweh will also pose a threat as he has 4 sacks and two forced fumbles. The team leader in tackling is sophomore linebacker Micah Parsons with 68 total tackles.
Week 10: What to watch for against the Nittany Lions
1. A Fast Start
Let’s rewind back to IU’s last trip to Happy Valley, when this happened:
The entire first quarter went like this:
Tom Allen commented on those disastrous 15 minutes on Monday. “I’ve tried to forget about that quarter,” he told media during his weekly press conference. On Saturday, Penn State will likely come out fired up after their loss last week. They have no margin for error on their road to the College Football Playoff. The Nittany Lions will try to replicate this fast start, and prior to last week, they only allowed three first quarter points all season. Minnesota did jump on PSU early, putting up 14 on the board.
2. It’s Peyton’s Place Now
With QB Michael Penix, Jr. officially out for the rest of the 2019 season, Ramsey takes over as Indiana’s signal caller the rest of the year. Ramsey has sparkled in reserve and occasional starter duty for Indiana, putting up 1,302 passing yards on a 72.0% completion percentage with 10 total TD and three INT. However, Ramsey struggled in his only outing against a defense as good as the one he’ll face on Saturday; Ohio State smothered him back in Week 3.
In two previous outings against Penn State, Ramsey has had a tough time, going 34-53 for 314 yards, two TD, and two INT. Penix replaced Ramsey for a few drives in last year’s matchup, before Penix suffered a season-ending injury. Still, Ramsey remains optimistic about Indiana’s chances on the road: “I think we are a better team (this season). You can see the confidence in Coach Allen and it has worked its way through the entire team.”
3. Attack Through the Air
Penn State’s defense has a number of quality players, but their front seven is stronger than their secondary. Corners John Reid, Tariq Castro-Fields, and Lamont Wade have shown some vulnerability this year. Specifically, Castro-Fields has shown trouble in man-to-man defense, compared to zone. Much like Penn State’s defense is easily the 2nd-toughest Indiana has faced this year (after OSU), Indiana’s offense is easily the 2nd-best PSU has taken on this season (after Minnesota).
If the offensive line can provide Ramsey enough time for his receivers to run their routes, Nick Westbrook, Donavan Hale, Whop Philyor, and Ty Fryfogle should find some success, especially on a sunny Saturday.
4. Get Penn State Off Schedule
Penn State’s offense, rated 11th in ESPN’s Week 11 SP+ ratings, gets even more dangerous when facing manageable downs and distances. According to Football Outsiders, PSU’s runs the ball well in short yardage situations, and struggles to protect QB Sean Clifford on passing downs.
Since Penn State has a relatively inexperienced offensive line, it would behoove the Hoosiers to get some penetration from the defensive line, so keep your eyes on Jerome Johnson, Allen Stallings, DeMarcus Elliott, and James Head to control the line of scrimmage and force the Nittany Lions into predictable situations.
Week 12: Indiana Hoosiers versus Penn State Nittany Lions Predictions
38-30 Penn State. Indiana has scored more than 30 points this entire season except their one outing against arguably the best team in the country in OSU. With a week’s worth of extra planning, there’s nothing preventing them to score that much once again. Hoosiers have proven their ability to handle these environments but Penn State’s quantity of talent is too deep to overcome.Rob Jiang
34-20 Penn State. There are two things working against Indiana in this matchup. First, the Nittany Lions will be chomping at the bit to get back out on the field after their loss to the Gophers last week. Second, PSU has a week to prepare and scout Peyton Ramsey, who’s simply not as explosive as Michael Penix. The combination of these two things will snap Indiana’s four-game B1G winning streak.Nithin Krishnan
35-24 Penn State. After last week’s crushing loss to Minnesota, Penn State’s postseason hopes of grandeur are dangling by a thread. If they have any chance to claw their way back into the College Football Playoff picture, they will need to not only run the table but look impressive while doing so. Indiana’s explosive offense and scrappy mentality is sure to provide some unique challenges to the Nittany Lions. Yet, with a sense of desperation and a more talented roster overall, expect Penn State to eventually overwhelm the Hoosiers and come out on top.Mike Pudlow
28-24 Indiana. Indiana shocks Penn State in a grind of a game. The Hoosiers enter the game heavy underdogs but this surprise is more likely than some of the other outcomes this season in the Big Ten, so don’t count the Hoosiers out yet. The offense will be focused and defense crisp after having a needed bye week.Dakota Thompson
Featured Photo: Penn State Athletics