4 storylines for Indiana’s game at Penn State #iufb

1. The health of both teams
Indiana could be limited on offense, and so could Penn State. Each team is looking at the potential for significant injury-related losses as they enter today’s game at Beaver Stadium. IU quarterback Nate Sudfeld and running back Jordan Howard are both dealing with ankle injuries, and their availability may not be apparent until shortly before the noon kickoff. Penn State’s backfield is also hurting after top running backs Akeel Lynch and Saquon Barkley missed last week’s game against Army due to injuries. Having Barkley, like Howard at IU, would be a major boost to Penn State, which hasn’t achieved offensive success or consistency so far. The PSU true freshman ranks third nationally and leads the Big Ten with 8.9 yards per carry.

2. Are the Hoosiers up for handling Penn State’s stout defense?
Having a healthy Sudfeld and Howard would help, but Indiana is due for a challenge either way. Penn State has held opponents under 325 yards of total offense for 12 consecutive regular season games. Most impressively, the Nittany Lions are second in the country with 21 sacks and average 4.2 per contest, while senior defensive end Carl Nassib has posted a sack in each game this fall. Penn State is also fourth in the nation with 9.2 tackles for a loss per game. Indiana’s offensive line had a tough time last week against No. 1 Ohio State, and the task this week doesn’t get much easier.

3. This may be another big week for IU’s pass rush
IU defensive lineman Adarius Rayner told a reporter at this year’s Big Ten Media Day that Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg looks scared when the pocket collapses around him. It wasn’t a groundbreaking admission given the Lions’ struggles to keep Hackenberg upright during the last few seasons, but it was a conduit to IU’s belief that it can rattle the Penn State quarterback with consistent pressure. No Big Ten quarterback has been sacked more times (15) than Hackenberg, who was taken down five times in last year’s game against Indiana. The Hoosiers rejuvenated their pass rush two weeks ago against a flimsy Wake Forest offensive line and could be in line for a similar performance against Penn State.

4. Explosive plays matter
Yet again last week, Indiana saw how critical it is to limit big plays when Ezekiel Elliott’s touchdown runs of 55, 65 and 75 yards were essentially the difference in a one-possession loss to the Buckeyes. Two of those runs came on short-yardage situations on third and fourth down. The Lions used a similar recipe for victory last season, when a 92-yard touchdown run by Bill Belton allowed Penn State to leave Bloomington with an ugly 13-7 win. As Indiana’s defense continues the climb toward respectability, the Hoosiers are still seeking to limit the long runs and explosive receptions that have hurt them for years. On the other side of the ball, IU’s offense hasn’t produced those same kinds of explosive plays to its benefit. It’ll be hard to reverse that trend against Penn State’s defense, so IU’s main goal must be making sure the Lions don’t pop the big one. Or two or three.

3 comments

  1. It all hinges on the performance of the offensive line. If they can protect the quarterback and make holes for the RB to exploit, they have a good chance of winning. If either of those priorities is a failure, they lose the game.
    http://www.americansportslegacy.com

  2. IU won’t be very limited if either Sudfeld is injured but more so if Howard is still hurting. The team gets a big lift with the Latham news and I hope the OL steps up like they said they will against this team. If Zander is the QB he will provide some problems for their defense and it will help the RBs get more running room.

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