Points aplenty expected as Penn State visits Indiana
INDIANAPOLIS – Five things to look for as Penn State opens Big Ten play against an Indiana team that it has never lost to, going 16-0.
No. 1: Ground and pound
Indiana cannot stop the run. The Hoosiers have given up an average of 248 yards rushing per game, and Penn State has a better running attack than any of those other opponents.
A heavy dose of Zach Zwinak, Bill Belton and Akeel Lynch could keep the Nittany Lions’ offense on the field all day, and equally as important, keep Indiana’s potent offense on the sideline.
Let’s put the over/under on PSU’s rushing total at 275.
Anything above that, and the Lions should win with ease.
No. 2: Aerial attack
The Hoosiers will move the ball through the air. That’s a given. They average 349 yards passing per game, and quarterback Nate Sudfeld completes 65 percent.
Penn State will have to play bend-but-don’t-break defense, giving up yardage between the 20s but getting stingy in the red zone. The Lions can win a shootout, but they might not have to in this one.
What Indiana tries to do is run lightning-quick tempo with a no-huddle look and quick passes. But when the Hoosiers face a short field in the red zone, they are susceptible to defenses with better athletes bunching up on the receivers, making it difficult to get into the end zone.
Indiana has attempted only one field goal all season, but the Lions – who should be able to score a lot of touchdowns on offense – will be in great shape if their defense can hold the Hoosiers to three points on a number of deep drives.
No. 3: CB test
This game will provide a good indication of how much progress Penn State cornerbacks Jordan Lucas and Trevor Williams have made. Both struggled against Central Florida’s potent passing attack, and they will be tested today by an efficient passing offense.
It wasn’t until late in the Central Florida game that PSU defensive coordinator John Butler had his cornerbacks start playing closer to the line of scrimmage with some bump-and-run coverage. They had been playing several yards off the receivers prior to that.
It will be interesting to see what strategy Butler goes with today. He knows the Hoosiers will be throwing a ton, so will he be aggressive or passive with his cornerbacks?
The answer probably depends on if Penn State has the lead. If so, look for the cornerbacks to jam the receivers trying to take away the quick-hitting stuff and force the Hoosiers to beat them over the top downfield.
No. 4: Bounceback game
Christian Hackenberg struggled in the last game, completing just 13-of-35 passes for 176 yards against Kent State two weeks ago.
It was raining that day, which could explain his issues, but whatever the case, Hackenberg needs a good game today to regain any confidence he might have lost.
The schedule gets much tougher after this with the next two games against Michigan and Ohio State, so the Lions need Hackenberg to be confident and playing well.
No. 5: Player to watch
This is the kind of game where Zwinak could have a monster day, in the neighborhood of 150 yards or more. He’s a powerful running back, and the Hoosiers just don’t have the personnel to stop the run.
Prediction: PSU, 40-24.