Penn State Preview: Indiana

UNIVERSITY PARK — Each week, we’ll tell you what to expect, what to keep an eye on, and where and when you can catch the Nittany Lions on fall Saturdays this season.

Game details: No. 9 Penn State (8-1, 5-1 Big Ten) vs. Indiana (7-2, 4-2 Big Ten), noon kickoff, broadcast on ABC. 

Venue: Beaver Stadium 

Weather forecast (via AccuWeather): High of 39 degrees and partly cloudy. 

The line: Penn State – 14.5 

Last week: Penn State lost at Minnesota, 31-26. Indiana had a bye week

All-time series: Penn State leads 21-1 

Last meeting (2018): After two gut-wrenching losses to Ohio State and Michigan State, respectively, Penn State rebounded for a 33-28 win in Bloomington. It was not a perfect display by any means, with Indiana out gaining the Nittany Lions on the day, 554-417. Still, it was a much-needed victory given the nature of the two previous defeats that season for Penn State.  

Throwback classic (2010): Indiana got paid. Penn State got the win. The Hoosiers collected a $3 million paycheck to move their 2010 home game against the Nittany Lions to FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland, only a 200-mile drive from State College. Penn State won the game, 41-24

Overview: Penn State is going to have to move on quickly from last weekend’s defeat to Minnesota, because the Hoosiers are playing with a lot of confidence right now. Coach Tom Allen has put his team in a position to potentially reach double-digit wins, something rarely done in Bloomington. While the Nittany Lions lost an emotional rollercoaster to the Gophers in Minneapolis, Indiana had a bye week, giving the Hoosiers an extra week to prepare for this one. 

Penn State wins if: The defense can return to form. It’s no secret the defense had a rough day at the office against Minnesota. The Gophers used quick passes and screens to negate the effectiveness of the stalwart Penn State front seven and put more pressure on the Nittany Lions’ secondary. I expect the Hoosiers to use a similar formula to that one. 

That being said, I anticipate Penn State’s defense to be motivated to get things back on track. The return of Antonio Shelton, who was suspended against Minnesota, should provide a nice spark. 

Indiana wins if: It exploits Penn State’s defense as Minnesota did. I really think this game comes down to Indiana’s offense vs. Penn State’s defense. As I mentioned before, the Nittany Lions’ secondary was burned repeatedly against the Golden Gophers. If the Hoosiers can put up points, it puts a lot more pressure on a Penn State offense that’s struggled with consistency all season long. 

The Football Letter/Steve Manuel

Count On: Pat Freiermuth to have another big day. When Penn State needs a first down, it seems like Sean Clifford always looks for his tight end. He had a career day last week and he’s a matchup nightmare for any opposing defense. Look for him to reach the end zone again Saturday and move atop the all-time touchdowns list by Penn State tight ends. It’s crazy to think he’s only a sophomore. 

Keep an eye on: Justin Shorter. The redshirt freshman has all the physical tools to be a premier wide receiver. He struggled last week with a few drops and hasn’t quite got going in his collegiate career yet. Coach James Franklin has talked about the need for receivers not named KJ Hamler and Jahan Dotson to step up and give Clifford another consistent target. 

Trivia tidbit: At 7-2 overall Indiana is off to its best start since 1993. The Hoosiers were off last weekend, but got a nod in the AP poll for the first time since Sept. 20, 1994 and the Amway Coaches Poll for the first time since Oct. 24, 1994.

Predictions

John Patishnock: Penn State 35, Indiana 24

Vincent Lungaro: Penn State 28, Indiana 20

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