The Quest for a Division Championship: Second Half Schedule Analysis
The bye week has come and gone, meaning there is Penn State Football for the next six Saturdays through Thanksgiving. As the players settle back into a weekly routine leading up to Saturday’s showdown in Iowa’s Kinnick Stadium, we are taking a look at the six remaining games on the Nittany Lions’ schedule.
The Nittany Lions’ future opponents have a combined record of 25-13 with an 8-7 Big Ten record. No. 7 Ohio State is currently the lone ranked team that is on the schedule. Below is a look at the upcoming opponents in order from least to most difficult. This is not intended to serve as any sort of prediction but rather provide a glimpse into what Bill O’Brien’s squad is up against as it looks to improve on the four game winning streak and remain undefeated in the Big Ten.
- Indiana (2-4, 0-3) — All of the elements combine to make this the easiest game on the schedule — Beaver Stadium, a winless Big Ten team, and the Hoosiers allowing 31.8 points per game. The ultimate trump card might be that Indiana has never defeated Penn State since the Nittany Lions joined the Big Ten in 1993. This game will not be a cakewalk as the Hoosiers have fallen to Michigan State and Ohio State by a combined total of 7 points, but the other five opponents are more daunting.
- Purdue (3-3, 0-2) — Some pundits thought Purdue could compete in a weak Leaders Division with Penn State and Ohio State ineligible to play in the Big Ten Championship game. That does not appear to be the case as the Boilermakers have lost their first two conference games by 31 and 24 points respectively. This game looked tough at the beginning of the season. All of a sudden, it appears easier.
- Iowa (4-2, 2-0) — Given that Kinnick Stadium has been a house of horrors for the Nittany Lions over the past decade, this may seem low, but the 2012 Hawkeyes have not looked good. Quarterback James Vandenberg has been a huge disappointment with more interceptions than touchdown passes as the Hawkeyes fell at home three weeks ago to a poor Central Michigan squad. They will enter Saturday’s contest with some momentum after escaping East Lansing with an ugly victory on Saturday.
- Wisconsin (5-2, 2-1) — This Badgers team is a bit of an enigma. They switched quarterbacks and lost as many regular season games in five weeks as they did all last season. While the Badgers will likely have a trip to Indianapolis locked up when they visit Happy Valley for the season finale, they will still be tough as stud running back Montee Ball is finally getting hot.
- Nebraska (4-2, 1-1) — This Nebraska team is a confusing one. Quarterback Taylor Martinez is much improved this season, but the defense has been blown up by UCLA, Wisconsin, and Ohio State. More should be learned about them in the coming weeks with some good conference tests, but either way, a trip to Lincoln in November will not be easy.
- Ohio State (7-0, 3-0) — The Buckeyes are hands down the toughest opponent remaining on the schedule. A home matchup against Purdue is the only thing stopping them from coming to Beaver Stadium undefeated in two weeks. Big play quarterback Braxton Miller has been responsible for 20 touchdowns through seven games in Urban Meyer’s spread offense. The defense does appear porous, surrendering 34.3 points per game in Big Ten play. This may come back to bite them at some point, but the Buckeyes far and away will be the best team the Nittany Lions face all season.
There you have it. There are some difficult games on the slate but certainly some highly anticipated ones as the second half of the season is set to get underway.