Know Your Opponent - Penn State

Written by: Sammy Jacobs and TJ Inman

This Years Record: 4-1 (1-0 T-1st  in Big Ten East)

Head Coach: James Franklin (2nd Year)

                                     Overall: 35-22 (.614) 5th year

At Penn State 11-7 (3-6)

Bowl Appearances: 1

Last Years Record: 7-6 (2-6 Won Pinstripe Bowl)

Bowl Appearances Since 2000: 9 Appearances (5-4 Record)

Mascot: Nittany Lion

Colors: Blue and White

Outfitter: Nike

National Titles: 2

Conference Titles: 4

Heisman Winners: 1

Fun Fact:

"Nittanyville", originally known as Paternoville, is the name attributed to the student tradition of camping out in front of Beaver Stadium prior to a home football game. Each week before a home game, students camp out in front of the stadium in order to hold their positions in line for front-row seats. Football players, the Blue Band, local food vendors and even the coaching staff frequently visit Nittanyville, pepping up the students as game days draw near. Nittanyville is governed by the student-run Nittanyville Coordination Committee. The tradition was established during the 2005 football season, when students began setting up tents and "camping" in front of Beaver Stadium one week before the game with rival school Ohio State on October 8.

1.      Injuries, Injuries Everywhere

The Indiana Hoosiers and Penn State Nittany Lions are both dealing with injuries to significant members of their program. For the Hoosiers, both Nate Sudfeld and Jordan Howard are attempting to work through ankle injuries. Penn State’s top two running backs (Akeel Lynch and Saquon Barkley), starting center and one of their top secondary members (Jordan Lucas) are all battling injuries as well. Both coaches are understandably being guarded with the information they release about the status of players and nothing definitive is known but through diligent research, we’ve learned a couple of things. First, Head Coach Kevin Wilson confirmed that both Nate Sudfeld and Jordan Howard were “dressed for practice”. That definitely doesn’t mean they are playing on Saturday (after all, I think we can all remember times when we were technically “dressed for work” but didn’t actually do anything once we got there) but it’s better than the alternative. On his weekly radio show, Wilson responded to a question about the two by saying, “He (Nate Sudfeld) was cleared during the game last week, so we’ll see what happens this week. They both play positions where you have to move, so we’ll see.”

James Franklin has also been tight-lipped about the injuries on his squad. However, he did confirm that Saquon Barkley is practicing and that “he looks good”. If forced to guess, I think Barkley and safety Jordan Lucas both play while Akeel Lynch is forced to sit Saturday’s game out.

2.      Containing Barkley

The status of true freshman running back Saquon Barkley is a huge deal because he is a key to the Penn State offense. On the season, Barkley has run the ball 42 times and gained 373 yards with three touchdowns. He is averaging 8.9 yards per carry and his explosiveness could make a huge difference in Saturday’s game. The Indiana defense gave up three long touchdown runs (also known as “explosive plays”) to Ezekiel Elliott last Saturday and it will be critical to do a better job against Barkley.

3.      Get to Hackenberg

Penn State’s presumptive future NFL QB, Christian Hackenberg, has had a rocky college career. After a very promising freshman season under Bill O’Brien, Hackenberg has struggled to find consistency under the duo of James Franklin and offensive coordinator John Donovan. His offensive line has hindered his progression as well as he often has to hurry throws or deal with pressure from the opposing defense. On the season, Hackenberg has been sacked an average of three times per game (10 of those were against Temple so there has been improvement and adjustments in the playcalling to help the woeful offensive line). Indiana’s defense has been able to generate an average of 2.2 sacks per game.

Last season, Hackenberg was only 12-29 for 168 yards against Indiana. In addition, he threw a pair of interceptions. However, the Hoosiers were unable to muster enough offense to make that matter and they fell 13-7. Applying pressure to the mostly immobile quarterback is an important factor for Saturday’s game so Nick Mangieri and company will need to bring their best to Beaver Stadium.

4.       Dealing with the Defense

Penn State is surrendering only 15.8 points per game and they are considered to be one of the best defensive units in the B1G. Whether it’s Zander Diamont or Nate Sudfeld under center, the Hoosiers are going to have to execute exceptionally well to move the ball consistently in front of more than 100,000 roaring fans. Bob Shoop is a tremendous defensive coordinator and he has consistently fielded strong defensive teams. This year is no different. Leading the way on defense is the interior duo of Anthony Zettel and Austin Johnson. The standout edge rusher is Carl Nassib. Nassib’s eight sacks rank second in the entire country and keeping him from the quarterback is a priority for the Hoosiers offensive line. At linebacker, Penn State might be without Brandon Bell (he’ll be another game-time decision) but Jason Cabinda leads the team in tackles (25.5) and Troy Reeder is second (20.5).

5.       A Top 10 Matchup

Well, top 10 in terms of turnover margin at least. Both of these offenses have done a great job of taking care of the ball and both defenses have done a nice job of taking it away. As a result, Penn State is +1.6 in turnover margin (tied for eighth nationally) and IU is +1.8 (tied for sixth nationally). In a game that projects to be quite close, turnovers could play a critical role in determining the outcome.