Know Your Opponent: Penn State Nittany Lions

Written by Lloyd Ribner III (@Ribner3

We Are.....

We Are.....

 

It has been some time now, but don't worry, Hoosier football is back. Have you been craving for a heavy dose of Crimson and Cream too? Well your in luck, the Hoosiers are going to be hosting Penn State this Saturday.
 
It's a nooner so not all that much time to imbibe in your adult beverages, so I hope you woke up early and are already a couple deep! If you can still read this you very well maybe doing it wrong, for those of use with other responsibilities here is a breakdown of Penn State.

Find out everything that you need to know about the Hoosiers' week six opponent, the Penn State Nittany Lions right here. 

 This Years Record: 3-1 (0-0 Big Ten)

Head Coach: Bill O’Brian, 11-5 (.688), 2nd year

Last Years Record: 8-4, Bowl Ban

Bowls Since 2000: 8 Appearances (4-4 Record)

Mascot: Nittany Lion

Colors: Navy Blue and White

Outfitter: Nike

Fun Fact: While Penn State claims just two national titles, they have had seven undefeated seasons in their history. (1887, 1912, 1968, 1969, 1973, 1986,1994)

1. Not enough Nittany Lions….So they’re playing cubs.

We all know about the scholarship issues hampering Penn State, and the fact that they will slowly be returned to the program with the new recent ruling coming down. However, that is no help for the Lions this weekend as they will be once again with less scholarship players than the team across the way. Sure, you can look at the positives, that many freshmen are worked into game action. It’s not just starting quarterback Christian Hackenberg either. Linebacker Brandon Bell, defensive backs Jordan and Anthony Smith in addition to many others have played, and done so productively. This is more a result of the NCAA sanctions than it is a coaching decision to go with the youth. A combination of the loss of scholarships and injuries has forced the coaching staff to use players in a game. The Penn State coaching staff actually uses a “traffic light” system in regards to playing young players. A “green light” means the staff is ready to use a player in the game. A “yellow light” means a specific freshman could play if a number of other players in front of him are injured. While a “red light” means that the freshman will not see the field no matter the circumstance.

2.  Christian Hackenberg looks to be the real deal.

Yes he has made his share of mistakes, but remember he is entering just his fifth game at the colligate level. It’s corny to say but the 6-foot-4 220 pound pocket passer truly has the talent to make all the throws. The reigns have been tight on the youngster throughout the early part of this season. He has completed over 62 percent of his passes and has had a quarterback rating of over 152 in three of his first four games. The one that he didn’t, he lead the Lions to a 34-0 victory over Kent State in a monsoon that Peyton Manning would have had trouble navigating. For the Lions to keep pace with the Hoosier offense O’Brian might have let Hack go and air the ball out. Sure he will make some mistakes, but the potential is endless and could become very very fun to watch.

3. A dynamic trio in the backfield.

While the Lions have the talent in the passing game to be productive, in week five they would prefer to use their stable of running backs to both control the tempo and keep the ball away from the Hoosier offense. Penn States best game plane is a heavy dose of Zack Zwinak, Akeel Lynch and Bill Belton. All three rushers have gone over the 250-yard mark one-third of the way through the season. Zwinack is pacing the rushing game, garnering 67 carries and getting into the end zone eight times. While Lynch and Belton have not had the same opportunities, they have been far more explosive. The two rushers average just about 8 yards per carry a pop, nearly doubling Zwinak’s average. However, their total carries combined don’t reach that of the number one back. This is truly a three running back system that will wear you down, especially with a defense like Indiana’s that is substandard to begin with.

4.  What do we really know about Penn State?

The fact of the matter is that through three games the Lions have been tested twice. One was the first game of the season against Syracuse, and the first game of Hackenberg’s career. Realistically that was a Cuse team that should have posed no threat to Penn State. They also were topped by UCF in week three by a score of 34-31. Reading that sounds awful, but realistically, this Knights team looks to be the real deal after pushing a top-15 SEC team in South Carolina to the limit. We know that the Nittany Lions can play with a talented team like UCF, we know that they can grind out a victory as they did against Syracuse, and that they can dominate inferior opponents such as Kent State and Eastern Michigan. Realistically though I am not sure that Indiana fits into any of these three categories. Therefore we will have to wait and see to truly know more about this Penn State team.

5. Kickin’ Fickin

After a rough start to last year, there were calls for the young man’s head after he cost the Lions dearly in their 17-16 loss against Virginia dropping PSU to 0-2. He has bounced back in a big way, converting on 12 of his 13 field goals in the Lions’ final seven games last season. He has continued his production in 2013. So far through this year the junior kicker is seven for eight with his only miss being of the 50-plus variety. He also has converted on all 16 of his extra points this year. Sure it might not be sexy to talk about the kicking game, but it was a point of contention for some time as far as Penn State was concerned.