Each week until the start of football season, we'll be going through Indiana's opponents one by one and looking at whatever we find interesting and/or hilarious about them. And as always, the kick was good. This week: Penn State
GAME 10: PENN STATE NITTANY LIONS
Last year's record: 7-6
2015 Final F/+ Ranking: 47
Head Coach: James Franklin
Where: Memorial Stadium, Bloomington, IN
When: November 12, time TBA
1. New year, new offense
Christian Hackenberg was the definition of tantalizing pro prospect during his three up-and-down seasons in Happy Valley. He was a tall pocket passer with the fundamentals to succeed in a pro-style offense, but could also scramble if needed (he had two rushing TDs against IU last year). However, Hackenberg never truly played up to his potential at Penn State. Some fans blamed the o-line or the receiving talent, while others just declared that he wasn’t very good. Nevertheless, the Jets decided in true New York Jets fashion that they’d draft him in Round 2, 14 spots ahead of where his All-American teammate - Lombardi Trophy winner and stellar defensive end Carl Nassib - was taken.
Now Hack is gone, and so is his OC, John Donovan. To replace Donovan, James Franklin brought in former Fordham coach Joe Moorhead. In four seasons in the Bronx, Moorhead went 38-13. And much to my delight, he’s another spread offense guru, which as I stated in the OSU preview, we need more of in the B1G. Oh yeah, running back Saquon Barkley is back though, and he averaged six yards a carry last year as a true freshman despite the Nittany Lions’ o-line troubles. He’ll be a threat to the IU defense much like many other great RBs have been recently. PSU’s new QB could likely be Trace McSorley, or it could be Decatur Central alum and former IU commit Tommy Stevens.
2. James Franklin may already be on the hot seat
James Franklin took over at Penn State for Bill O’Brien, who left for the Texans and has already made the playoffs there because the AFC South is a trashfire and because Ryan Grigson failed to bring in any linemen to protect Andrew Luck. Anyway, Franklin - who rescued Vanderbilt from years of futility before moving up to State College - has only gone 14-12 in his first two seasons at the school. The optimistic fan can argue that some of this stems from Penn State recovering from sanctions, and the fact that the Nittany Lions are placed in the B1G East and must play OSU, MSU, and Michigan every year.
A more pessimistic fan, on the other hand, might be upset at the team’s inability to beat those three powerhouses, and how Hackenberg’s development seemingly stalled under Franklin. In addition, Penn State lost to Temple last year for the first time in 64 years, and also lost to Tim “Lasagna” Beckman at Illinois two years ago. So while the B1G East is not an easy division, many Penn State fans expect more from Franklin than hovering around .500 every year. Franklin is a Pennsylvania native and knows the demands of the job. But after a few excellent recruiting classes, his team needs to make a step forward in the third year. The schedule won’t be easy - in addition to the divisional games, Penn State has to re-assert its dominance in the Keystone State, as they play Pitt and Temple in weeks 2 and 3. Lose either of these games, and it could be a sad season in Happy Valley.
3. Can the Hoosiers win this game?
My friend and I visited our friend in State College for the IU-PSU game last year. The town is great, the tailgating scene is fantastic, and the local fans were quite nice to us visiting Hoosier fans. Unfortunately, the game itself was a letdown - without Nate Sudfeld and Jordan Howard, the Hoosiers fell 29-7. The year before was one of the ugliest football games I’ve ever been to at any level. After 20 punts, Penn State escaped Bloomington with a 13-7 win in which IU’s only points came off a pick-six.
Considering IU’s inability to do anything on offense against the Nittany Lion defense over the past couple years, a victory might be a tall order. However, both times the Hoosiers were without their starting QB in those games. In addition, Penn State will be replacing most of its defensive line startes this season, so if Indiana’s experienced o-line can dominate, the Hoosiers could get a ground game going. Finally, the game is in Bloomington, and this favors IU, since under Franklin, the Nittany Lions have only gone 5-7 in games away from Beaver Stadium. SB Nation college football stat guru Bill Connelly gives Penn State a 59% chance to win this game. Of course, it all depends on how both teams develop throughout the season, but there’s definitely a chance that IU could steal this one.
4. Let’s remember some Nittany Lions
(yes I’m shamelessly stealing this section from Drew Magary’s NFL previews over at Deadspin but it’s a good bit)
- Ki-Jana Carter
- Anthony Morelli
- Matt McGloin
- Joe Jurevicius
- Courtney Brown
- Aaron Maybin
5. Let’s hear from our readers
In honor of the infamous #PUNTTRACKER game from 2014, we asked you this:
for next week's preview please guess the total number of punts indiana and penn state will attempt in their game this season— CRIMSON QUARRY (@crimsonquarry) August 4, 2016
Here were some of your responses:
@crimsonquarry 14 not including 3 Joesph Gedeon fake runs— Mitch Meyer (@mymanmitch23) August 5, 2016
In case you missed it, our punter is awesome and runs a 4.4 40 and will totally be drafted by Oakland in Round 2 in a few years.
@crimsonquarry 21 in honor of QB Richard Lagow's jersey number— Brock Sellers (@Brock_Sellers) August 4, 2016
Has any other QB worn #21 before? I think Lagow is a first.
@crimsonquarry 69 / 420 / harambe just hit retweet i don’t care— king goodtweets (@KickSewly) August 4, 2016
Annnddddd there’s your correct answer.
Next week on the CQ Summer Preview Series: HARBAUUUGHHHHHH