Each week, we’ll tell you what to expect, what to keep an eye, and where and when you can catch the Nittany Lions this football season.
Game details: at Indiana, 3:30 p.m. kickoff, broadcast on FS1.
Venue: Memorial Stadium.
Weather forecast (via Accuweather): High of 56 degrees with clear skies.
The line: Penn State –5.5
All-time series: Penn State leads 22-1.
Last meeting (2019): Penn State won 34-27 in Happy Valley.
Throwback classic (2016): Penn State continued its trend of coming from behind, overcoming a 10-point deficit in the second half en route to winning the Big Ten title. The Hoosiers had the ball late with a chance to tie, though Torrence Brown recovered a fumble in the end zone for the final 45-31 margin.
The lead: Football is back. Or more specifically, Big Ten football is back, and so are the Nittany Lions. Some of the many questions swirling around the team are: How will the rushing attack fare (presumably) without Journey Brown, who will reportedly might miss the entire season because of a medical condition discovered during the offseason. Will the defense suffer a setback without Micah Parsons? How sharp will the offense be, and will it look different with Kirk Ciarrocca coming in from Minnesota? What will it be like watching a game with no fans?
Penn State wins if: the Nittany Lions establish the passing game. Penn State’s depth at running back is well noted. The passing game, meanwhile, is a little more uncertain. Tight end Pat Freiermuth is actually the team’s lead returning receiver, though Jahan Dotson did start all 13 games last season. Along with Dotson, Cam Sullivan-Brown and Parker Washington are listed as the team’s three starting receivers, and how quickly that group can synch up with Sean Clifford will be critical.
Indiana wins if: the Hoosiers offense can keep Penn State’s defense guessing. Indiana is a fun team to watch. The Hoosiers score a lot of points, though they also are prone to allow a bunch, too, though their defense has shown signs of improvement. It’s difficult to see Indiana winning a fairly low-scoring game, so if the Hoosiers can score 35-plus, they have a chance to pull off the home upset.
Count on: Brandon Smith having an impact. He appeared in all 13 games last year as a true freshman, and is listed atop Penn State’s depth chart at outside linebacker. Smith checks in at 6-foot-3, 244 pounds, and has garnered plenty of praise from teammates and coaches. His trajectory is one reason why there’s optimism the defense won’t significantly regress with Parsons opting out, with the linebacker room featuring plenty of depth and talent.
Keep an eye on: the Penn State running backs in the receiving game. Getting them move involved catching passes out of the backfield has been something of a theme that emerged this summer, with players talking about how this year’s offense might differ with Ciarrocca.
Trivia tidbit: With Journey Brown expected to possibly miss the entire season, Penn State’s leading returning rusher is actually Clifford (552 yards on 116 carries).
John Patishnock — Penn State 37, Indiana 27
Vince Lungaro — Penn State 27, Indiana 23