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Lion In Wait: Penn State Versus Indiana

Lion In Wait is Onward State’s football column for Penn State conference games.  Published Friday at 5 P.M. before games featuring Big Ten opponents, LIW emphasizes the game from a fan perspective.

Penn State football fans – get ready for one of the weirder weekends of NCAA football. Why, you ask? Because it’s in your best interest to pull for both Pitt and Ohio State.

Allow me to explain. To those who don’t follow college football as closely, it’s important that you realize that the goal of the postseason is to earn an invitation to the best bowl possible. At this point, Penn State’s loss to Iowa in September ruled out a trip to the BCS National Championship Game, and this past Saturday’s unpleasantness made the team’s at-large BCS bowl (Rose, Fiesta, Sugar, Orange) chances slim. However, Penn State’s large national following and marketability gives them a good shot at a bid if a few things fall into place.

For those who want a more detailed rundown, ESPN’s Big Ten blog is a great resource for picking who to pull for in games not involving Penn State. This may sound silly, but given the bizarre bowl selection process, things can get convoluted.

And that brings us to this weekend – where, in addition to a blowout of Indiana, many donning the Blue and White will actually hope that Pitt beats Notre Dame and Ohio State crushes Iowa.

The first – and more tolerable – scenario is easier to comprehend. Notre Dame is one of the few programs that has a following comparable to Penn State – so toppling the No. 12 ranked Panthers immediately makes the Irish back in the mix for one of the limited at-large invitations. Though it may be difficult to align with the same fans whose Keystone inferiority complex has upheld a bitter rivalry despite the two teams not playing in years, the end justifies the means.

Ohio State is another matter. With their win in Beaver Stadium last Saturday, Penn State is likely out of the Big Ten championship picture – at best we’re hoping for second place. In order to accomplish that – and leapfrog freshly-defeated Iowa in the BCS rankings – the Hawkeyes need to get demolished in the horseshoe. Coaches’ polls make up 2/3rds of the BCS ranking system, so if their confidence in a Ricky Stanzi-less Hawkeye squad is shaken, a tumble from the top 14 would give Penn State an opening. Is that reasonable? Probably not. But this is the same system that has USC ranked over Oregon.

Of course, the most important thing the Nittany Lions can do tomorrow is play their best football against Indiana. After the two disappointing losses in front of a home crowd, the season may seem to be over to some, but there’s still a ton at stake here. Here’s to hoping that the team goes all out and gets a little help from their competition’s opponents.

History Lesson

Interesting fact: Penn State has never lost to Indiana. The last meeting between the two teams was a lopsided 34-7 victory in drizzly weather. Yep, this will be either an expected win or a huge disappointment.

Public Enemy Number One

Tandon Doss – Wide Receiver #2

Assuming the Lions try to accrue style points by lighting up the scoreboard as quickly as possible, the best way to ensure that it gets the attention of Poll voters is by keeping the margin of victory wide. Doss is having a breakout year, registering at least 5 receptions per game and quadrupling his receiving totals from last year. Teams that fall behind early are compelled to air it out, and all it takes is one big play to turn a dominant victory into merely a good one.

The X-Factor

The Offensive Line

Daryll Clark is getting a lot of heat for the season’s two losses, but what most people overlook is that if the line can’t establish a running game, it makes the offense one-dimensional and thus easier to defend. Starting Guard Johnnie Troutman is slated to be out with an injury, so the unit’s ability to bounce back without the standard lineup will be key. If this group mentally recovers from the loss to the Buckeyes, the offense can pick up where it left off.

Tips Tip For The Game

1) This is the last home game  – Senior Day. While the day is meant to highlight graduating members of the team, it’s also the final home game for most of the members of the Senior section. If you’re in my boat – that is, this is most likely your final game in the student section – make the most out of this game. Show up early, be loud, stay late. You’ll be glad you did when you’re watching games from the tame alumni section.

Prediction
The line is set at 25 – the largest spread for a game against a Big Ten opponent this season. Clearly, the Hoosiers’ 1-5 conference record plays a major role in their underdog status.

Penn State 38
, Indiana 14. I anticipate the coaching staff throwing everything they have at a mediocre Hoosier defense in hopes of a lopsided score. Penn State has blown their only two opportunities for signature wins this season, so the next best thing they can do is compensate by putting on dominant performances against inferior opponents.

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About the Author

Mark

Mark McColey is a Senior majoring in Advertising and Labor-Employment relations. Among his loves are Penn State Football, The Steelers, The Penguins, The Simpsons, Tina Fey, and Arrested Development.

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