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Penn State Nittany Lions vs. Indiana Hoosiers Preview and Prediction

Saquon Barkley

Saquon Barkley

Penn State continues to impress in the second half of the season, but the Nittany Lions face a decent challenge on the road on Saturday in Bloomington against the Indiana Hoosiers. With Saquon Barkley heating up and Trace McSorley gaining confidence, Penn State looks to pick up a sixth straight win to go 8-2.

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Meanwhile, Indiana is hoping to become bowl eligible for a second straight season for just the second time since the mid-1990s. A win likely gives Indiana a chance to improve on its win total for a second straight season in the regular season, but the Hoosiers may be getting Penn State at the worst possible time.

Penn State at Indiana

Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 12 at 12 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ABC/ESPN2

Spread: Penn State -7

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Three Things to Watch

1. How does Penn State handle newly acquired status?
Since knocking off previously undefeated Ohio State, Penn State has responded well to a new world of expectations and national respect with flying colors. Things got off to a sluggish start at Purdue two weeks ago before the offense woke up in the second half, while last week against Iowa the Nittany Lions showed they may be ready to turn this corner. This week presents Penn State yet another challenge on the road against a dangerous offensive team in an early kickoff after being placed in the top 10 of the latest College Football Playoff rankings.

2. Saquon Barkley making late-season Heisman Trophy push
He will not win the Heisman, an award highly likely to be given to Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, but Barkley is making a case for at least an invite to New York City for the trophy presentation. Barkley eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark last week against Iowa and is well on his way to joining an elite club at Penn State with a 1,500-yard season (only four other players in school history have accomplished this feat – Lydell Mitchell, John Cappelletti, Ki-Jana Carter, Larry Johnson). His big-play ability will be on display against a Hoosiers defense that allows 165 rushing yards per game.

3. Indiana’s offense should give Penn State some trouble
Penn State’s defense has been playing better the past two weeks since defeating Ohio State. The Nittany Lions gave up 341 yards at Purdue two weeks ago and limited Iowa to just 234 yards last Saturday in Beaver Stadium. However, this week, Penn State must slow down one of the top offensive units in the Big Ten, and that has been a problem in conference play this season.

Ohio State and Michigan have the top two ranked offenses in the Big Ten, and they racked up 413 yards and 515 yards, respectively, against the Nittany Lions. Indiana owns the conference’s No. 3 offense, averaging 468 yards per game. That should keep Penn State’s defense on its toes from the start.

Final Analysis

James Franklin has made it pretty clear what the objective for his team is every week. As the College Football Playoff selection committee continues to sing the praises of Penn State in its weekly rankings, Franklin is only focused on “Indiana, Indiana, Indiana, Indiana, Indiana...” That should mean Penn State’s defense will be dialed in on preventing Hoosiers quarterback Richard Lagow from feeling too comfortable and shutting down running lanes for Devine Redding. Jason Cabinda should be a key player for Penn State’s defense once again and Penn State may once again have to shrug off a slow start to come out of the state of Indiana with a win in the second half. Indiana has a pesky history of keeping things close with Penn State, and that could be the case once again.

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Prediction: Penn State 34, Indiana 20

— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. McGuire also contributes to College Football Talk and The Comeback as well as hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB and Like him on Facebook