Game Preview: Penn State vs. Indiana
Alas, Big Ten football is upon us.
The 2020 Penn State football season kicks off on Saturday afternoon as the Nittany Lions travel to Bloomington to take on the Indiana Hoosiers.
In 2019, Penn State finished with an overall record of 11-2 and concluded its season with an exciting 53-39 victory over Memphis in the Cotton Bowl. Indiana went 8-5 overall and fell narrowly to the Tennessee Vols in the Gator Bowl, 22-23.
Coming into the unusual eight game season, both teams are expected to make some noise. Penn State enters the season boasting some serious National Championship aspirations, while Indiana is looking at one of its best teams in recent memory.
Let’s dive into the matchup and see what it’s going to take for each team to start its season off in the win column.
Penn State begins the season ranked No. 8 in the AP Top 25, and many expect the Nittany Lions to at least be in contention for a spot in the College Football Playoffs.
With star linebacker and projected top draft pick Micah Parsons opting out for the season, it’s a crushing blow to what is one of the nation’s best defenses. Furthermore, news recently broke that it’s unlikely running back Journey Brown will be playing football this year. Due to an undisclosed medical condition, Brown is going to be sidelined for the Nittany Lions for the foreseeable future.
Fortunately for the Nittany Lions, they have significant depth and talent at both of those positions. Both units are going to need to start off hot on Saturday because Indiana could put up a lot of points with its explosive offense.
Penn State’s defense is loaded with talent, yet more on the inexperienced side. The offseason development of the secondary and the linebackers is going to be something to keep an eye on.
Indiana has a lot of weapons that will undoubtedly test Penn State’s coverage from the get-go. It’s going to be vital that the Nittany Lions win on the line of scrimmage to eliminate the Hoosiers weapons on offense by getting to the quarterback.
On the flip side, block effectively and establish the run game to open things up for quarterback Sean Clifford and the receivers on offense.
If Penn State can put pressure on Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr. both with the pass rush and on the scoreboard, with long sustained drives chewing up chunks of clock, limiting the amount of opportunities for Penix Jr. and the offense, Indiana could find itself in a hole that will be too large to climb out of.
Speaking of Penix Jr., one of the most anticipated aspects of the Hoosiers’ season is the comeback of the dynamic, uber-talented signal caller. The 6-foot-3, 218-pound lefty is an incredible athlete, has an impressive arm and is seeking to take Indiana’s football program to new heights this year after he’s struggled to stay healthy in the past.
With wide receivers Whop Philyor and Ty Fryfogle both returning to Indiana for their senior seasons, Penix Jr. has some very dangerous weapons at his disposal. Philyor and Fryfogle both torched Penn State’s secondary in their matchup last season.
With the added return of junior bruiser back Stevie Scott III and the dual threat of Penix Jr., Indiana vaunts one of the most balanced yet daunting offenses in the Big Ten.
The Hoosiers are returning almost every weapon on offense which averaged 31.8 points per game and 432 yards per game in 2019. As previously mentioned, the inexperience of the Nittany Lions' linebackers and vulnerability of the secondary may be something that head coach Tom Allen and Penix Jr. look to exploit.
Penix Jr. and his striking abilities surrounded by his abundance of playmakers will be looking to take the top off of Penn State's defense. It'll be a handful for the Nittany Lions, and if they aren’t careful, could be in for a long day.
With a conference-only schedule this year, the easier non-conference games that normally act as a warmup for Big Ten play won’t be there. So, don’t be surprised if this game gets messy and expect the unexpected.
Although there’s a lot of excitement surrounding this Hoosiers team, Penn State is the better squad and head coach James Franklin should have his players fired up and ready to go. The Nittany Lions will pull away in the second half and take care of business, spoiling the Hoosiers’ season opener.
Penn State 34, Indiana 20
Zach Donaldson is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.