Penn State-Indiana preview: 3 storylines to watch
The last time Penn State traveled to Memorial Stadium, disaster struck.
The Nittany Lions entered the 2020 season ranked No. 8 in the nation, but they fell 36-35 on a controversial two-point conversion by Michael Penix Jr on the game's final play.
The loss in the season opener was the first of five straight in a disappointing 4-5 campaign.
Last season, Penn State dominated Indiana in shutout fashion, avenging its upset loss against the Hoosiers.
Despite finishing No. 12 in the country in 2020, Indiana has fallen on hard times, going 2-10 in 2021 and are in the midst of a five-game slide after starting the year 3-0.
The Nittany Lions have struggled recently, dropping two of its last three contests after opening the year 5-0.
The blue and white will try to avoid a second consecutive loss at Memorial Stadium, and here are three things to watch for during Saturday’s contest.
Indiana has struggled this season to move the ball consistently, and in its most recent loss against Rutgers, it suffered a major blow.
Wide receiver Cam Camper tore his ACL in the 24-17 loss creating a huge void in the Hoosiers' passing attack.
In seven games, Camper racked up 569 receiving yards and two touchdowns. This season marked his first playing at the Division I level, as he previously suited up at Trinity Valley Community College in Texas.
The Lancaster, Texas, native sits fifth in the Big Ten in receiving yards and sixth in catches, so replacing his production will be no easy task.
With Camper done for the season, Indiana may begin to run the football and Auburn transfer Shaun Shivers has played well this year.
“We’re impressed with the Auburn transfer at running back, Shaun Shivers,” Franklin said. “Their running back is giving them juice right now.”
Inability to stop the pass
Indiana coach Tom Allen has his defense geared up to stop the run game, and while they’ve struggled to do that, they have also struggled to defend the pass.
Indiana’s pass defense is No. 102 in the country, giving up 259.5 passing yards per game.
However, the Hoosiers' pass defense had their best performance last game against Rutgers, limiting the Scarlet Knights to 113 yards.
Indiana’s secondary has still struggled as it has given up at least 300 passing yards in three separate contests, including most recently in a loss to Michigan.
During Sean Clifford’s tenure at Penn State, he’s faced the Hoosiers three times and has thrown over 200 yards just once.
Between Clifford failing to play well against Indiana and the Hoosiers struggling secondary, something will have to give on Saturday.
A change under center
Quarterback Connor Bazelak has been extremely inefficient in his first season with Indiana. Bazelak spent the prior two years with Missouri as its starter.
Through eight games, Bazelak’s completion percentage ranks 112th out of 120. While he’s thrown 12 touchdown passes, Bazelak has completed just under 55 percent of his passes.
The fourth-year signal-caller has tossed nine interceptions, including at least one in each of the Hoosiers’ last five losses.
During his Monday press conference, Allen didn’t confirm with reporters whether Bazelak would remain the starter.
"I'm just saying that you'll have to wait till Saturday to see who our starting quarterback is going to be," Allen said.
If Bazelak is benched, look for backup quarterback Jack Tuttle or Dexter Williams to be named the starter.
Indiana also struggles to run the ball as it ranks 128th in that category, and it would provide a huge boost to the offense if they can establish the run.
However, expect Bazelak or whoever is named the starting quarterback to throw often, giving the Penn State secondary plenty of opportunities to create turnovers.
Alex Rocco is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.
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