Five Things We Learned: Indiana
The No. 9 Nittany Lions were able to bounce back after their first loss of the season by defeating the Indiana Hoosiers 34-27 on Saturday at Beaver Stadium to improve their record to 9-1. Here are five things we learned from the game:
Penn State still has a shot at the College Football Playoff
Despite their loss to No. 8 Minnesota last week, the Nittany Lions will still have their season come down to the matchup in Columbus next Saturday against the No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes. If they beat Ohio State, they will earn themselves a spot in the Big Ten Championship game, which would probably be a rematch against the Golden Gophers. If the Nittany Lions go on to win that game as well, that should be enough to earn themselves their first ever appearance in the College Football Playoff.
Many stars will have to align, as Ohio State is always tough to beat in the Horseshoe, and the Gophers will be hungry for more, but the Nittany Lions are still confident that they could potentially win it all this year.
No Noah Cain, no problem
Although Penn State has been using the running-back-by-committee system all season, freshman Noah Cain has arguably been the most reliable of the group. Experts and fans alike have been worried about the strength of the running game with a sidelined Cain, who missed the past two weeks and hasn’t had double-digit rushing attempts since the win at Iowa on Oct. 12. But Journey Brown is proving otherwise, as he had 100 yards and a touchdown on 21 rushing attempts against the Hoosiers.
If Cain does not play against the Buckeyes, the Nittany Lions should be able to rely on Brown as the lead back. The question will be if the rest of the committee will be able to step up in a pinnacle moment, as Devyn Ford ran for just 38 yards on eight attempts against Indiana, and Ricky Slade has struggled all year with just 120 rushing yards this season.
It’s official: Sean Clifford can run
Penn State struggled to get anything going in the passing game against Indiana, as Sean Clifford threw just 11 completions on 23 attempts for 179 yards: both his second-lowest completion percentage and passing yardage total this season.
But what Clifford missed with his arm, he made up for with his legs. He recorded two rushing touchdowns in a game for the first time as a Nittany Lion, the first on a 38-yard run late in the first quarter and the second putting Penn State up 10 with less than two minutes to go to solidify the win.
Ohio State has some of the best defensive stats in the sport, as the Buckeyes have allowed the fewest total yards, yards per play and yards per game in FBS. Clifford might have trouble getting things going in the passing game, but he could have a chance to break free of the pocket and scramble at important moments to give the Nittany Lions second chances and keep the game close.
The defense is slowly disappearing
After having an elite defensive unit to start the season, Brent Pry’s squad has not looked the same the past two games. Against Indiana, the defensive line was not able to force much pressure and recorded just two sacks, while blown coverage and miscommunication among the defensive backs helped Indiana quarterback Peyton Ramsey throw for 371 yards.
Indiana is a good offensive team, but it’s not that good. Meanwhile, Justin Fields and company can tear apart any unit. If this defense can’t get back to what it used to be, it could be a long and painful day for Penn State next Saturday.
Indiana could earn a spot in the College Football Playoff Top 25 poll
Heading into this matchup, the Hoosiers were ranked in the AP Poll at No. 24: their first appearance in the poll since 1994, ending the longest drought of a Power Five school being unranked. With a new edition of the College Football Playoff Top 25 dropping Tuesday night, Indiana could also make its first ever CFP poll appearance. Limiting Clifford to fewer than 200 passing yards and Ramsey throwing for over 350 are both legitimate reasons why the Hoosiers could be a top-25 team in all of college football.
Jack McCune is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.