Staff Predictions: Penn State vs. Indiana

Penn State may be on a four-game losing streak, but that fact doesn’t deter the Onward State staff. Here’s what our sports writers think about this weekend’s matchup with the Indiana Hoosiers.

David Abruzzese (season record: 4-4): Penn State 13, Indiana 10

I wanted to pick Penn State to lose, but something inside of me wouldn’t let me. I know this team is sick of losing, and I sure as hell know the fan base is tired of it as well.

Christian Hackenberg gets a break this week, facing an Indiana defense that has struggled. Akeel Lynch will see the bulk of the carries for the Nittany Lions, and my gut tells me that he is (finally) due for a big game. Keep in mind that Indiana is no UMass, but it is undoubtedly a step down from Ohio State and Michigan. Hackenberg will have pressure in his face, just like every other game, but he must find ways to create plays and get points on the board.

Defensively, this front seven will have to face its toughest test yet in Tevin Coleman. He will be tough to stop, but luckily Penn State boasts the top-ranked run defense in the entire country. This will be a fun battle to watch, and should be the only exciting matchup of the game, seeing as Indiana is reaching down the depth chart for quarterbacks. If the Hoosiers do choose to throw the ball, the end result will favorable for Penn State fans.

This game is not necessarily a primetime showdown, but if Penn State wants to qualify for a bowl, it must get to six wins. There is no excuse to lose this game.

Ben Berkman (season record: 4-4): Penn State 24, Indiana 14

It’s hard to know what to expect with this team anymore. Also, I have the same mediocre record picking games as Penn State does playing football, so at this point, you probably shouldn’t listen to what I say.

Anyways, like last week, on paper Penn State should beat Indiana. The Hoosiers are depleted across the board, and, other than a shocking upset against Missouri, haven’t beaten anyone of note. But nor has Penn State, and it has managed to lose four consecutive games it could have won. This week, however, getting away from Beaver Stadium and the pressures of performing at home may help the Nittany Lions, who haven’t won in nearly fifty days.

Indiana features one of the nation’s best run games, but against Penn State’s strong defense — which is as good as the Nittany Lions’ offense is bad — it won’t collect nearly as many yards as it’s used to. The Hoosiers are prone to giving up big plays and big numbers. That’s exactly what Hackenberg and his receiving corps will need to score early, and hopefully often, en route to a much-needed victory.

CJ Doon (season record: 4-1): Penn State 21, Indiana 16

Although the Hoosiers boast a formidable running game (11th in the nation, 274.5 yards per game) behind the strength of star ballcarrier Tevin Coleman, Penn State’s defense is up to the task.

The front seven, led by Anthony Zettel and Mike Hull, ranks No. 1 in the country in rush defense, limiting opposing offenses to just 77 yards per game and 2.29 yards per rush. Along with Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliot and Michigan State’s Jeremy Langford, Indiana’s Tevin Coleman will present the Lions’ defense with their biggest challenge of the year on the ground. The junior leads the Big Ten and is third nationally with 1,300 yards and 11 touchdowns, while averaging over eight yards per carry.

But with quarterback Nate Sudfeld out with a shoulder injury for the Hoosiers — the same quarterback who torched Penn State for over 300 yards and two touchdowns last season — this offense won’t be nearly as stout as the unit that hung 44 on Penn State in Bloomington in 2013.

I think Coleman will become just the second running back to go over 100 yards against the Nittany Lions this season, but that’s only because head coach Kevin Wilson will be force-feeding him the ball. Expect somewhere in the neighborhood of 25-30 carries for Coleman, and at least one big run, but not much else for one of the nation’s best backs.

While Hackenberg and the receivers won’t have a “breakout” game, there should be more continuity and rhythm in the passing game against a porous Hoosier’s defense. And in some weird, unexplainable way, I think a change of scenery away from Beaver Stadium might be exactly what this team needs to get motivated.

It’s going to be a long, uphill battle to earn a sixth win to become bowl eligible, but I think Penn State gets one step closer with a close road win this weekend.

Mike Reisman (season record: 4-4): Penn State 17, Indiana 10

At this point, this is less a prediction and more a plea. This game is vital if Penn State wants to play past November, because as much as Illinois and Temple are both very winnable games, the pressure of having to win two in a row does not sit well with me.

For the first time in a little while, the Nittany Lions are almost definitely the better team, and while Indiana has a great win on the road against Missouri, it also has losses to Bowling Green and a 22 point loss to a Maryland team that Penn State probably should have beaten. The best part is that Indiana’s best player is a running back, and run defense is probably the only truly consistent thing Penn State has had all year.

Hopefully, this game can get the offense in some sort of a rhythm so the team can win and have a shot of finishing at 7-5, a mark still very much in reach. Or, you know, they could pull a “last year” and lose. There’s always that.

Tim Gilbert (season record: 5-3): Penn State 16, Indiana 10

I picked this score because when I was a freshman and we played Indiana on the road during a canning weekend, that was the score (and I don’t feel like exerting much effort predicting a game of this caliber). Also the spread is 7.

Doug Leeson (season record: 3-2): Penn State 21, Indiana 14

Indiana does not have a good football team. Penn State also does not have a very good football team. Thus, I’m predicting a pretty boring football score. Indiana will somehow find the end zone two times, and the 21 points I’m predicting for Penn State will come via seven Sam Ficken field goals.

Watching the nation’s top rushing defense face off against Indiana’s star running back Tevin Coleman will a sight to see. Otherwise, besides Penn State’s kicking, no other parts of these teams are consistent enough to know what to expect.

Worst case scenario, Penn State loses to another team that’s worse on paper. Best case, and I think the most likely, Penn State gets one win closer to bowl-eligible after this game.

Stephane Hardinger (season record: 3-2): Penn State 16, Indiana 10

Penn State is favored by 7 points on the road despite their horrid stretch of play leading into this game, which should tell you what you need to know about the Hoosiers.

Is the offense going to look good? No, it’s still going to be a mind-numbingly ineffective rotation of bubble screens, inside runs, and Wildcat snaps. But the defense should stifle Indiana, and give the offense good opportunities via field position all game. Sam Ficken is hot right now and should be able to finish off drives when the offense inevitably stalls in opposing territory. It’s not going to be particularly pretty, fun, or entertaining, but look for Penn State to finally break its losing streak here.

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