November 18, 2010

Preview: Penn State 'at' Indiana

Pregame huddle [1]
Penn State and Indiana will face off at the Washington Redskins' home stadium, FedEx Field in Landover, MD. The obvious benefit to Penn State is that this game will surely turn into a virtual home game for the Nittany Lions. The Northeast corridor, stretching from the Washington, DC metro area through to Boston, is home to the highest concentration of Penn State alumni in the nation. If FedEx Field isn't 80 percent Penn State fans, it would be a disappointment.

The Hoosiers come into this game with a potent passing game, but with little ground support. The injury last week to QB Ben Chappell could make things interesting, but he's likely to play, and is good enough to play well while hurt. The Indiana defense is, well... pretty damn bad.

For Penn State, it's a chance to get back on track. The loss last week to Ohio State was crushing in every respect. This game against Indiana should offer some kind of outlet for the pent-up rage the Nittany Lions should be harboring after returning from Columbus.

Here's your weekly preview and breakdown.

The Indiana Defense

...might be worse than even Michigan's defense, and that's saying something. While the Hoosiers have only the second-worst statistical defense (411 ypg allowed) in the conference--behind Michigan--the unit is the only one with both total and scoring defense (33.6 ppg allowed) in the bottom two spots, making Indiana the worst defensive football team in the Big Ten this season.

This wasn't supposed to be even a decent defensive year for Indiana, however, as the Hoosiers lost a ton of talent from the last few seasons. Players like Greg Middleton, Jammie Kirlew, Matt Mayberry, Will Patterson are all gone. But it wasn't like the Indiana defense was stellar when those guys were in crimson and cream.

Matt McGloin under center
Matt McGloin will get his shot at redemption,
but how much slack will he get?
(Photo: Mike/LBU)
PSU Pass Offense vs. Indiana

During its impressive 3.5-game win streak before falling apart after halftime at Ohio State, Penn State was absolutely carving up defensive backfields of Minnesota, Michigan, Northwestern, and for the first half, Ohio State. The starting quarterback for half those games, Matt McGloin, will start again this week. If the redshirt sophomore can revert back to the kind of quarterback seen before halftime in Columbus, this should be a cakewalk for the Nittany Lions' offense.

Indiana is giving up 228 pass ypg (9th Big Ten) and is the second-worst pass efficiency defense in the conference. Penn State, though not an offensive juggernaut, has proven it can throw the ball very effectively this year against poor or poorly prepared (Ohio State) defenses.

Impact Spot: Deep throws on first downs... Throw the ball at least 15-20 down-field yards on first down. Did it already last series? Well, do it again, and again, and again... Penn State has crushed teams when it throws on "running downs," first and second. Indiana should be ripe for the picking. With a quarterback like McGloin--what's the saying?--"F--- it, let's go deep!"

Evan Royster
Evan Royster is 217 from reaching
1,000 yards this season.
(Photo: Mike/LBU)
PSU Rush Offense vs. Indiana

There is a reason Indiana's defense is so statistically bad this year. The Hoosiers can't do any single thing well. That's where the rush defense comes in. Worse than the 9th-place pass defense, the Indiana rush defense is 10th in the conference, giving up 183 rush ypg and 17 touchdowns this season. Last week against Wisconsin, Indiana gave up 338 yards rushing, including 301 of those yards to just two players--backups James White and Montee Ball.

However, Penn State hasn't rolled on the ground much this year, even against the bad defenses. The best performance was 260 rush yards against Northwestern, with most of them coming in the second half when the Wildcats were wearing down and worrying about the pass. The Nittany Lions are a very pedestrian 8th in the Big Ten on the ground, and tied for second-worst in the league with only 11 rushing touchdowns.

By the way... Evan Royster is only 217 yards from becoming the only rusher in Penn State history with three 1000-yard rushing seasons.

Impact Spot: Passing first... When Penn State passes on those aforementioned "running downs," the ground game opens up immensely. Right up through the Ohio State game, Penn State mixed up its calls enough to the point where Ohio State couldn't load up the box on first and second down. That allowed Evan Royster and Silas Redd to tear off some very nifty gains.

The Indiana Offense

Everything centers around quarterback Ben Chappell. Chappell's positively fantastic when he has time to throw, and would be even better if he had a running game of any sort to balance out the Hoosiers' offense. But that balance just isn't there for Indiana. The rush offense is dead last in the Big Ten, barely breaking 100 yards (104.1) per game. Interestingly enough, the Hoosiers are tied with Penn State for rushing touchdowns (11).

The Indiana offense operates mostly from the shotgun and pistol formations, in an attempt to maximize Chappell's production, and get the running backs going downhill before reaching the line of scrimmage. It's done fine against weaker defenses, but any team with a defensive pulse had been able to clamp down on Indiana, as the Hoosiers are averaging 14.3 points per game the last three games--all losses.

Indiana Pass Offense vs. Penn State
Pete Massaro
Pete Massaro and the defensive ends
will have to up their game this week and next
if Penn State wants to reach 8 wins.
(Photo: Mike/LBU)

It's been an interesting season for Penn State's secondary. Injuries and lack of any serious challengers has allowed the unit to rank 2nd in the Big Ten in pass defense. Of course, it doesn't help when most opponents can just run the ball for 150 yards a game without breaking much of a sweat. But overall Penn State has done well, but not great, against the pass. Last week against Ohio State, three of Terrelle Pryor's nine completions accounted for 89 percent of his pass yardages, including that freak 58-yard touchdown-off-a-tip throw into double coverage.

For Indiana, Chappell sustained a minor hip injury last week, but is slated to play on Saturday. This season, Chappell is throwing for 273 yards per game, with a 19-8 TD-INT ratio. Most of the passing damage against Penn State this year has come from mobile quarterbacks, but Chappell is a stationary pocket passer. With any sort of pass rush, he can be forced into some bad throws, or at least rushed throws.

Impact Spot: Pass rush... Penn State was able to get to Pryor last week, but not finish him off. With a quarterback like Chappell back there, the Nittany Lions' front seven should have little excuse for not pressuring him into those bad throws, or outright sacking him for lost yardage.

Bani Gbadyu [2]
Bani Gbadyu and the linebackers have been
the target of fan criticism for much of the season.
(Photo: Mike/LBU)
Indiana Rush Offense vs. Penn State

On October 14, Indiana lost starter Darius Willis for the season with an ACL tear. Since then, a once-poor Indiana rushing attack turned into a now-horrendous one. There isn't much to analyze here, so we'll leave it at this: If Penn State can't stop Indiana from reaching 104 rushing yards for the game, the Nittany Lions will lose next week to Michigan State.

Impact Spot: Ends and Linebackers... This unit tandem was mostly to blame for allowing Ohio State's Dan Herron to rush for 190 yards on 21 carries. Indiana doesn't have a "Boom" of their own. This is the perfect opportunity for guys like Jack Crawford, Pete Massaro, Bani Gbadyu, Chris Colasanti, Gerald Hodges, and (if he makes the trip) Sean Stanley to redeem themselves somewhat, even if it's against a terrible opposing ground game.

Special Teams

What should have been a great advantage for Penn State has suddenly turned into a weakness. Punter Anthony Fera will miss this weekend--possibly the rest of the season--due to an emergency appendectomy two days ago. This will severely (as far as we can tell) affect kickoff and punt coverages. Fera was fantastic on driving kickoffs deep, and was improving steadily on punts. Now, Colin Wagner looks to resume his kickoff duties from last season, while true freshman Alex Butterworth takes over punts. Butterworth has not seen the field this season.

Besides all that, Penn State still may have a slight advantage in returns. Indiana isn't the sharpest team at covering kickoffs, while Penn State had been very good at it earlier in the season.

Mike Zordich runs through the Temple defense
More of this guy, please.
Mike Zordich has been very good
at getting tough yards.
(Photo: Mike/LBU)
Two things that could really piss you off...
or make you really, really happy.

Short yardage downs... This was a Jeckyll-Hyde thing last week, as Penn State used two short-yardage 4th down conversions to drive Ohio State nuts, while failing on a third which handed over momentum to the home team. It's been an ongoing issue for Penn State this year, with at least one glaring short-yardage situation that the Nittany Lions failed to convert. Many will wonder this week if Joe Paterno will go for it again on 4th down, if the Nittany Lions get within field goal range. Depends on how the game is going.

Turnovers... Say what you want about the defensive breakdowns, or the non-McGloin offensive problems last weekend. But the biggest dagger to the Nittany Lions' upset hopes came in the form of two McSixes (Get it? "Mick" sounds like "Pick"). If McGloin throws an early interception, especially one that leads to Indiana points, the internet may very well explode. It could also lead to an early appearance by Rob Bolden. Remember him?


Though Matt McGloin is the listed starter in this game, Bolden has earned a chance to come back to the offense he led through some of the toughest road games--some of the toughest games, period--Penn State has ever had to face with such a raw team. McGloin's accomplishments of the last few weeks should not be ignored, but the failures last week cannot be, either. Almost more importantly for Penn State, the defense must use this game to get itself back from such a devastating performance in the second half against Ohio State.

Youngstown State or Kent State, Indiana may not be. However, this is perfect timing for a road game in a place like DC, against a team like Indiana. There is no guarantee that Penn State will win this game. But any objective look signals the Nittany Lions could leave our nation's capital with a 7-4 record.

Check out our LBU staff picks tomorrow for score predictions

Follow LBU on Facebook and Twitter. Subscribe to by EmailPreview

Follow LBU on Facebook and Twitter. Subscribe to by Email


Post a Comment