Penn State to Open Big Ten Schedule Against Indiana
The Nittany Lions (3-1) open the Big Ten conference slate tomorrow against the Indiana Hoosiers (2-2) on the road. The Hoosiers aren’t the toughest challenge Penn State will face over the course of the season, but the team has a much more prolific offense than it’s used to featuring one of the Big Ten’s best passing attacks. In a series that dates back to 1993, Penn State will head into Bloomington undefeated against Indiana, topping the Hoosiers in each of its 16 prior meetings.
This will almost certainly be a high-scoring game as Indiana, led by quarterback Nate Sudfeld, will look to take advantage of Penn State’s still unproven secondary. The Hoosiers put up a whopping 73 points in their opener against Indiana State. I’d be surprised if the Nittany Lions don’t head home with a win, but it isn’t going to come as easy as the victories against Kent State and Eastern Michigan did.
Indiana is rushing for 198.8 yards a game while passing for 348.5. That’s good for 547.2 yards of total offense compared to Penn State’s 461.2. The Hoosiers are averaging 11 more points a game than the Nittany Lions, although the 75 points against the Indiana State Sycamores in the opening game didn’t hurt that number. Sudfeld, whom I’ll discuss more in a bit, is off to a very strong start to his sophomore campaign. Sudfeld has racked up 1,146 yards and 11 touchdowns, completing 65.3 percent of his passes.
Let’s take look at some Indiana players to keep your eye on.
Nate Sudfeld #7 – Indiana’s sophomore quarterback has the potential to be a star. Sudfeld was solid in the seven games he started as a true freshman last season, but he’s hit stride so far this year. Indiana has one of the best passing games in the Big Ten and Sudfeld is mostly to thank for that. The Nittany Lions will struggle to contain him and the Hoosiers’ wide receivers.
Tevin Coleman #6 — When Sudfeld isn’t scoring touchdowns, Tevin Coleman is. The sophomore running back has 386 rushing yards with six touchdowns this year while averaging 6.9 yards per carry. He’s also the team’s kickoff returner. Coleman is an explosive player and will face a tough battle against the Nittany Lions’ front seven on Saturday.
Cody Latimer #3 & Shane Wynn #1 – These two guys are Sudfeld’s two favorite targets. Wynn, a junior wide receiver, tends to make the most out of his receptions. He caught two balls and returned one punt against Indiana State and wasn’t tackled on any of those plays, scoring three touchdowns in the game. Wynn has 275 receiving yards and four touchdowns on 14 catches this season. Latimer, also a junior, has 19 catches for 346 yards and two touchdowns.
Some things to watch for from the Nittany Lions:
The secondary – The Nittany Lions’ pass defense has been subpar through four games. That doesn’t bode well for the unit as Indiana has a pass game that’s equally as terrifying as Central Florida’s was a few weeks back. Sudfeld is fully capable of doing to the Nittany Lions what quarterback Blake Bortles did in that matchup. If the secondary ever needed to step up, it’s in this game. Jordan Lucas and Trevor Williams have a daunting task ahead of them.
The run game — Zach Zwinak, Bill Belton, and Akeel Lynch have to be salivating looking at Indiana’s defensive statistics this year. The Hoosiers have allowed 247.8 rushing yards per game. Penn State almost certainly has a better running back unit than any team Indiana has played so far. The Nittany Lions’ trio of stud running backs could and should go off on Saturday. I’m talking 100 or so yards from each running back and at least a couple touchdowns between them.
Christian Hackenberg – While Hackenberg sort of played a road game in the opener against Syracuse, it was only a pseudo-road game considering that it was played at a neutral site and the crowd was dominated by blue and white. Hackenberg will be in an unfriendly environment for the first time of his young Penn State career. He has had some early game jitters at Beaver Stadium, so it’s possible that those jitters will be amplified or extended when Hackenberg faces his first real road test.
If you like offense-heavy games that feature a ton of scoring and a ton of big plays, make sure you’re watching this game come 12:00 p.m. tomorrow afternoon.
By the Numbers: The Hoosiers have five players who could potentially reach 100 career receptions and 1,000 career receiving yards this season. On 25 scoring drives, 24 of which were capped off with a touchdown, Indiana is averaging 5.9 plays in just 1:48., covering an average of 62.1 yards per drive. That’s also scary.
Blast from the Past: Matt McGloin had one of his best games of the season against Indiana last year, totaling 395 yards and four touchdowns including three to Allen Robinson in a 45-22 victory.