The Hoosiers travel to State College with their bowl hopes hanging by a thread.
Penn State Nittany Lions
2012 record: 6-4 (4-2)
2011 record: 9-4 (6-2), lost to Houston in TicketCity Bowl
2011 Sagarin: 28 (IU was 139)
2012 Sagarin: 35 (IU is #73)
Coach: Bill O'Brien (first season, 6-4)
Series: Penn State leads 15-0 (all but 4 wins vacated)
Gametime: noon Saturday
Last Penn State win: October 1, 2011
Radio: IU Radio Network (Don Fischer, Buck Suhr, Joe Smith)
Line: Penn State by 17
Blog: Black Shoe Diaries
Game notes: Indiana, Penn State
For its second-to-last game of the season, Indiana travels to State College, PA for the first time since 2009 and with any hope of a bowl game requiring the Hoosiers to win out. IU last played Penn State in the Big Ten opener in Bloomington last season. A surprising comeback left the Hoosiers with a Hail Mary attempt into the end zone that would have won the game, but Dusty Kiel's pass fell short, and that was that. As it was, the Hoosiers lost 16-10. Much has changed for IU since then. Kiel and Edward Wright-Baker are out of football. Tre Roberson was still redshirting at that time. Damarlo Belcher, the target of Kiel's desperation pass, wasn't in jail. Obviously, though, that's nothing compared to what has happened to Penn State since then. Perhaps the least surprising change, from the perspective of October 1, 2011, is that Joe Paterno is dead. He was 85 years old and had some health problems. Still, it was unforeseeable from that vantage point that within a matter of weeks, Paterno and the university's president would be fired and disgraced. Who could have known that the next time IU and Penn State played, the Nittany Lions would be coached by an outsider named Bill O'Brien, that they would be in their first season of a four season bowl ban, and that they would have names on their jerseys.
The history of the Indiana-Penn State series is well-known to IU fans. IU has never won a game against Penn State. The games played in Bloomington and Indianapolis have been close. Penn State has traveled to Indiana to play IU seven times, and five of those games have been decided by six points are less (as PSU fans always point out, the 1994 score is misleading. The point stands). Of the 7 games played in State College and the one played in Landover, Maryland, only IU's first trip, in 1993, a 38-31 loss, was decided by fewer than 14 points. After a rough start to the season (0-2 against Ohio and Virginia), the Nittany Lions rebounded with a 5-game winning streak, and despite losses to Ohio State and Nebraska, O'Brien seems the likely choice for Big Ten coach of the year if he wins out against IU and Wisconsin.
I'll have much more about the 2012 Nittany Lions as the week continues. The implications for IU are obvious. If IU wins, then the Hoosiers head to West Lafayette a week from Saturday with a chance to win back the Bucket and to qualify for a bowl game. If IU loses to Penn State, the the Hoosiers will be guaranteed to be home for the holidays for the 18th time in 19 seasons. The Hoosiers are heavy underdogs but should not lack motivation.