After having their College Football Playoff hopes bruised last week, Penn State looks to get back on track with much to still play for. The Nittany Lions will return to their home in Beaver Stadium this week to host an Indiana team that has worked its way into the AP Top 25 for the first time since 1994. Did anyone predict this game would be a battle for second place in the Big Ten East at this stage of the season? That's what we have on tap here as Penn State hopes to keep their Big Ten title hopes alive for another week.
Indiana at Penn State
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 16 at 12 p.m. ET
Spread: Penn State -14.5
When Indiana Has the Ball
Indiana's bread and butter this season has been its passing game. And although Michael Penix has been lost to a season-ending injury, Peyton Ramsey has proven more than capable of keeping things going through the air for the Hoosiers. Indiana leads the Big Ten in passing plays of 10 or more yards, so Penn State's secondary will have to tighten up their coverage this week to prevent Indiana from picking up chunks of yards through the air. After last week's poor showing against the Minnesota passing game, there is a sudden need to improve the pass defense quickly for Penn State. Indiana will certainly be a big test to see how quickly things can improve.
Ramsey had a big performance two games ago as he passed for 351 yards and two touchdowns in a victory against Nebraska that clinched bowl eligibility for Indiana. Whop Philyor will be Ramsey's main target with 813 receiving yards on the season, but there will be multiple looks to get the ball in the end zone. Nine different players have caught a touchdown pass this season for IU.
Penn State's defense has been one of the strengths of the team all season long, but they are coming off their worst performance of the season against the Gophers. Penn State allowed its first two first-quarter touchdowns last week. Indiana will hope to get off to an early jump on Penn State this season to take some of the enthusiasm out of the home crowd this week.
When Penn State Has the Ball
Should there be some concern about Penn State's passing game? Sean Clifford is coming off his shakiest performance of the season with three interceptions thrown, doubling his season total up until last week's game against Minnesota. Clifford has completed slightly over half of his pass attempts since Oct. 12, and his receivers have had some unfortunate drops to contribute to this drop in efficiency. The home-run threats are still there with KJ Hamler and the dependability of tight end Pat Freiermuth is a nice luxury to have, Penn State could benefit by getting big plays from their top players early on against the Hoosiers.
Penn State seems to have gone away from the idea of a running back by committee the last few weeks. Noah Cain has been limited at best and Journey Brown has taken on the bulk of the rushing attempts lately. Brown is coming off his second 100-yard game of the season after rushing for 124 yards and two touchdowns against Minnesota last week. Indiana gave up 220 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns against Nebraska two games ago but the Hoosiers clamped down last week against Northwestern. Expect something in between for Indiana this week.
After taking their first loss of the season, Penn State will be hungry to get off to a great start against Indiana. Some home cooking will serve Penn State well, but the Nittany Lions will have to overcome a slow start before they can start to feel comfortable. Indiana will make some plays through the air but Penn State's defensive line will create some pressure in key spots to be the difference in the game. A late score by the Hoosiers will make for a closer final score, but Penn State will be able to get its rebound win.
Prediction: Penn State 34, Indiana 17
— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. McGuire also contributes to College Football Talk and hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Patreon, on Twitter @KevinOnCFB and Like him on Facebook.