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INDIANA vs. Penn State: Game preview, odds, how-to-watch, and more

Unfortunately, Trace McSorley won’t be apple-picking on Saturday

NCAA Football: Michigan State at Penn State Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Game Info / How to Watch

Who? Indiana Hoosiers (4-3 [1-3], #64 S&P+) vs. Penn State Nittany Lions (4-2 [1-2], #7 S&P+)

When? Saturday, 10/20/18 3:30 PM, Bloomington, IN

Channel? ABC

Vegas? Penn State -15.5

S&P+ Projection? Penn State -14.4

From hope and optimism prior to the Michigan State game to dread, pessimism and defeat after the Iowa game. On paper, that span lasted three weeks. But it feels like a full season since we had hope for Indiana football.

Somehow, last week’s game only counted for one loss even though it felt like much more. On one hand, it’s a positive that despite how poorly everything went, Indiana is still above .500 and two wins away from bowl eligibility. On the other hand, S&P now predicts Indiana to lose every remaining game (though some are very close, still) and Indiana held a players only meeting this week. Nothing good happens after players only meetings.

To the numbers

Penn State Table

- Explosiveness (86%) Efficiency (83%) Field Position (75%) Finishing Drives (72%) Turnover Margin (73%)
- Explosiveness (86%) Efficiency (83%) Field Position (75%) Finishing Drives (72%) Turnover Margin (73%)
INDIANA (#88 offense) 1.00 (118th) 45.3% (37th) 30.0 (63rd) 3.80 (116th) 3 (33rd)
PENN STATE (#16 defense) 1.13 (57th) 36.8% (25th) 27.6 (34th) 4.17 (43rd) 1 (56th)
- - - - - -
PENN STATE (#19 offense) 1.26 (27th) 45.1% (38th) 33.0 (13th) 5.04 (37th) 1 (56th)
INDIANA (#50 defense) 1.19 (69th) 40.6% (66th) 27.8 (44th) 5.53 (124th) 3 (33rd)

Indiana’s defense continues to plummet after back-to-back 10th percentile performances. Jack Grossman talked a lot about Indiana’s struggles defensively, which revolve around a lack of a pass rush. That’ll be of increasing importance this week once again.

The Opponent

There probably could not be a worse match-up for Indiana right now than Penn State. Even with the Nittany Lions coming off two losses, this isn’t set up to be a game Indiana can take advantage of a reeling Penn State team.

Losses to Ohio State and Michigan State derailed any playoff hopes and probably any New Year’s Six bowl for Penn State. Now, a mad and angry and motivated team looking for revenge walks into Memorial Stadium.

On the offense, Trace McSorley leads a unit that is ranked 19th in the nation. The offensive line is superb in the run game with an opportunity rate that ranks them 13th in the country (54.8 percent). They’re average in protecting McSorley and slightly below average against blitzes, but Indiana has struggle so mightily to create pressure and get home on blitzes even against averages lines that there’s not much optimism for this to be the week to turn it around.

On the ground, Miles Sanders takes full advantage of the opportunities presented to him, rushing for 700 yards this season and excelling when he reaches the second level. McSorley himself is a capable runner with 496 yards and six touchdowns on the ground to go with his 1,241 yards through the air.

McSorley has preferred wideouts KJ Hamler and Juwan Johnson with the two combining to be targeted a nice 69 times. The rest of the team has been targeted just 93 times this year.

The offense is an explosive one, particularly on the ground. Through the air, Penn State ranks 44th in explosiveness, an area the Nittany Lions could exploit like Iowa did last week. If Indiana is going to have success against the Penn State offense, it’ll likely need to disrupt McSorley and not allow him time to pick the IU defense apart while also limiting the run.

Defensively, Penn State is solid at keeping team off schedules with the average third-down distance against the defense being 8.6 yards. Then, on those passing downs, Penn State is 32nd in the nation in efficiency and are 12th in the nation on third down success rate defensively.

In many ways, it’s a mirror of how Indiana’s defense was successful in year’s past: keep teams off schedule and force them off the field on third downs.

The glimmer of hope is that the defense is below average in opponent opportunity rate on the ground, meaning Indiana could, theoretically, create some holes. Considering how good Penn State is against the pass, Indiana may need to establish the run game to have any form of success.

To get a deeper Penn State perspective, head over to Roar Lion Roar where myself and Ben Raphel appeared on their podcast this week to talk about the match-up.

Things to Watch

  • Peyton Ramsey - There’s no point in beating a dead horse but Ramsey looked bad last week. He’ll need to make plays this week or risk Indiana getting blown out again. The offense will need some big plays to make an upset a possibility.
  • Offensive line - It’s not a coincidence that Indiana’s season has taken a downturn since the offensive line has struggled. Injuries have caused some shifting but the unit must play better for Indiana to have any success this year, let alone a chance at an upset on Saturday.
  • Weather the storm - After this week, three of the final four games Indiana plays are winnable. Saturday could get ugly but if the team can come out with some positives unlike last week, it could be enough to springboard into a game against Maryland.


This is a terrible match-up for Indiana. I don’t suspect this will be close and I fear it could be a repeat of last week. Penn State 38, Indiana 17