No matter the matchup, no matter the year, the first game of the season always feels a little squirrelly. First games are pretty sloppy, mostly disjointed affairs, and on the right day, they can get downright weird.
So if you’re the Hoosiers, you have to love getting No. 8 Penn State in Week 1.
It’s hard to really know what to expect in this year’s season opener, given all of the factors at play. Spending time on a Week 1 breakdown feels foolish when you consider all of the unknowns. But maybe, just maybe, in a year of chaos, perhaps things will line up advantageously for the ol’ Chaos Team. Maybe.
Here are three storylines to consider for Saturday’s game:
Almost two years ago to the day, Michael Penix’s freshman season came to an abrupt end against the Nittany Lions on an awkward, third-quarter fall that led to a torn ACL. Penix missed last year’s Penn State game with a clavicle injury, so it’s taken some time before he could exact his revenge. Or something. There are some questions about the Penn State secondary, and given how Peyton Ramsey carved up the Lions to the tune of 371 yards last year in State College, Penix could be in for a big day in what this blogger expects to be a high-scoring game. Mostly, though, we’re curious to see how IU’s guards hold up against Penn State’s pressure. Does the Indiana quarterback have the help he needs?
Where are the defenses?
It feels like everywhere you look around the college football landscape, defenses are a half step, or even a full step behind the offenses this season. We noted Penn State’s secondary questions above, and we received some iffy signs about the defense from Tom Allen during fall camp. So we’re curious. Where do things stand? And, looking at Saturday, specifically, how will IU account for Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth? He’s going to be a problem for everybody, and I pity the folks tasked with dealing with him right out of the gates. The over-under on Saturday is 62 points, and given the way both of these offenses figure to put up points this fall, it might not be a bad idea to smash that over.
Big, bad mistakes
Yeah, yeah. It’s the story with every Indiana football game, isn’t it? But this was especially true last year in Happy Valley, where a muffed punt followed by an ugly miscommunication on a fake punt contributed to 14 Penn State points in a game IU lost by seven. In a series that has been as close as this one has in recent years — 2017 aside — it’s high time that this Hoosier program rises to the moment. Speaking of mistakes, we sure are excited for the return of Big Ten officiating, aren’t we, folks?
At a Glance
- This is the 12th time IU has opened the year against a ranked team and the second time in Bloomington (No. 2 Ohio State - Aug. 31, 2017).
- Indiana’s last Top-10 win came at No. 9 Ohio State (31-10) on Oct. 10, 1987.
- Penn State leads the overall series, 22-1, including a 9-1 mark at Memorial Stadium. IU defeated PSU, 44-24, in Bloomington on Oct. 5, 2013.
- Penn State has won 16 of its last 18 season-opening contests and four consecutive. All-time, the Nittany Lions are 110-21-2. Penn State won its only two previous season openers against Big Ten opponents, defeating Minnesota in 1993 and 1994 in the Nittany Lions’ first two seasons as members of the conference.
Penn State - Indiana Connections
- Penn State redshirt sophomore DT Aeneas Hawkins and Indiana redshirt sophomore Shamar Jones are cousins.
- Penn State sophomore RB Noah Cain and redshirt freshman CB Makai Self and Indiana redshirt freshman DL Antoine Whitner Jr. all played together at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, under head coach Kevin Wright, who is now Indiana’s tight ends coach.
- Penn State redshirt junior QB Sean Clifford and Indiana redshirt junior OL Dominic Altimari played together at St. Xavier in Cincinnati.
- Penn State redshirt sophomore S Trent Gordon and Indiana redshirt senior OL Mackenzie Nworah and redshirt junior DL Alfred Bryant played together at Manvel High School in Texas.
- Penn State redshirt junior DT Fred Hansard and redshirt freshman OL Caedan Wallace and Indiana redshirt senior DB Gabe Cohen all attended The Hun School in New Jersey.
- Penn State redshirt sophomore DT Judge Culpepper and Indiana redshirt junior DB Juwan Burgess, redshirt junior LB Thomas Allen, senior WR Whop Philyor and junior LB Micah McFadden played together at H.B. Plant High School in Florida.
- Penn State freshman Cole Brevard and Indiana redshirt junior OL Britt Beery, redshirt freshman DL Beau Robbins and freshman linebacker Ty Wise all attended Carmel High School in Indiana.
- Penn State freshman OL Olu Fashanu and Indiana redshirt sophomore Aidan Rafferty played together at Gonzaga College High School in Maryland.
- Penn State sophomore RB Devyn Ford and Indiana freshman WR Javon Swinton both attended North Stafford High School in Virginia.
- Penn State offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca and Indiana running backs coach Mike Hart coached together at Western Michigan from 2014-15. Both served in the same roles.
Game Info / How to Watch
Who? No. 8 Penn State (0-0, #5 SP+) at Indiana Hoosiers (0-0, #32 SP+)
Where? Memorial Stadium, Bloomington, Indiana
When? Saturday, Oct. 24, 3:30 p.m. ET
Channel? FS1 | Aaron Goldsmith (p-b-p) & Mark Helfrich (analyst)
Radio? IU Radio Network; Sirius 106, XM 196, Internet 958: Don Fischer, Buck Suhr & Joe Smith
Vegas? Penn State -6
SP+ Projection? Penn State by 10 (33-23), 72 percent chance of Nittany Lion victory