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Sports

College Football Preview: #8 Penn State Nittany Lions at Indiana Hoosiers

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College Football Preview: #8 Penn State Nittany Lions at Indiana Hoosiers

2020-10-23 17:39:26

 

-by T.J. Inman, Contributing Writer; Image: Indiana wideout Whop Philyor. (Image Source: Michael Hickey / Getty Images)

Bloomington, IN—A week 1 preview:

Who: #8 Penn State at Indiana

Where: Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, IN

When: Saturday, October 24, 2020 at 3:30 on FS1

Series History: The Penn State Nittany Lions have won 22 out of 23 matchups in the one-sided history between the two schools. IU’s lone victory came in 2013 when the Hoosiers beat one of the poorer PSU squads in history at the lowest point of their rebuild after the Gerry Sandusky scandal. The Nittany Lions have won six in a row but the last two contests have been incredibly close.

What’s at Stake: After a long, uncertain, and tumultuous offseason, both teams are certainly more than ready to be playing their first game. Penn State fancies themselves as a potential Big Ten title contender, which would put them in the running for one of the four playoff positions. The Indiana Hoosiers are looking for a victory against a top ten team and to get their season off to a good start after a terrific eight-win season in 2019.

Hoosier Huddle Watch Party: Download the HotMic app in the app store or visit Hotmic.io and enter in referral code: HoosierHuddle to join us for the game at 3:30.

Things to Watch

This list could be roughly 100 points long because there is so much to be intrigued by as we enter the 2020 season. However, I’ll limit it to three large keys for Saturday’s contest.

1.     Who Can Play the “Cleaner” Game?

Penalties, turnovers, and missed tackles are always a major part of playing fundamental football. However, those things have taken center stage in several games as teams have had to shake off the rust of the offseason with less physicality and more limitations on their practice time than usual. IU has made costly special teams mistakes in the past couple of contests against PSU and the outcome could very well be decided by which teams do the fundamental things better. In short, victory shall favor the team that makes the fewest mistakes.

2.      Limiting PSU’s Running Game

The Nittany Lions running game includes both the running backs and the legs of quarterback Sean Clifford. In last season’s game between the two teams, Sean Clifford was only 11 for 23 throwing the ball but he had 55 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns. Journey Brown added 100 yards on the ground and PSU ran for 192 rushing yards with three rushing scores. One of Clifford’s runs was for 38 yards and he is very capable of hurting the Hoosiers on the ground. I expect him to be better than 11 of 23 this time around but IU has to do a better job of limiting the PSU ground game. Journey Brown is very unlikely to play this season due to a medical condition that is being treated. That is extremely unfortunate for Brown and the Nittany Lions and it keeps him out of the equation on Saturday. Noah Cain and Devyn Ford will get the carries in Brown’s absence. Both are very capable and Cain could turn into a star with his opportunity. IU’s front seven needs to be disciplined in their run fits and sharp in their tackling, no easy task in week one of this season.

3.     Indiana Offensive Balance

IU fans are all very excited about the potential of Michael Penix and the Indiana passing game. The coaching staff needs to make sure that excitement about Penix and the Hoosiers offensive weapons is warranted by putting those players in a position to succeed but new offensive coordinator Nick Sheridan also needs to balance the desire to throw the ball around with the need for IU to run the ball. The Hoosiers only had 91 yards on 31 carries last season against Penn State and if IU becomes one-dimensional because they can’t run the ball, Penn State’s defensive ends (a potentially special duo with Shaka Toney and freak-athlete Jayson Oweh) will tee off on Michael Penix and there won’t be much Matthew Bedford or Caleb Jones can do about it.

To read more from Sammy Jacobs and his staff at HoosierHuddle.com, click here.

 

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