Count Penn State among the teams that would like to rage-quit and hit a reset button this season. After losing two straight games at home to the same two teams to beat them last year under similar circumstances, Penn State hits the road this week looking to regroup against the Indiana Hoosiers.
Penn State at Indiana
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 20 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Penn State -14.0
Three Things to Watch
1. Will Penn State wake up or be in a slumber?
After two demoralizing losses that have effectively taken the Big Ten title entirely out of the picture, what will the mental state of Penn State be on the road this week against an opponent like Indiana? Will it be a Nittany Lions team focused on getting off to a fast start and not letting up as they look to rebuild confidence? Or will Penn State be caught in a trap of being vulnerable on the road with little motivation against a team capable of giving them some trouble if Penn State is not mentally prepared to play?
This has become more of a serious test for James Franklin and his staff. How Penn State starts this game will give an idea of how well the staff has handled the situation after last week’s loss to Michigan State.
2. Indiana protecting the football better in 2018
Midway through the season, the Hoosiers have shown significant improvement in turnover margin. Last year, the Hoosiers were tied for the worst turnover margin in the Big Ten with a minus-seven (tied with Illinois and Nebraska). Entering this week, Indiana has a plus-three margin for the year, although Indiana has had a minus-one in two of its last three games (Rutgers and Iowa). Last year against Penn State, Indiana had a minus-three turnover margin in a 45-14 loss in State College. The Hoosiers will have to make sure they do not give Penn State free chances with the football, because Penn State could make them pay in a hurry if the offense is in sync.
3. Big day for Miles Sanders?
Sanders is the Big Ten’s second-leading rusher this season with 700 yards and seven touchdowns, trailing only Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor, a fellow sophomore, in both categories. Last week, against the Big Ten’s top-ranked rushing defense, Sanders rushed for 162 yards, although a big chunk of that yardage came on two plays. The Hoosiers have been giving up an average of 157.71 rushing yards per game, which ranks 10th in the Big Ten coming into the week. Expect Penn State to try to get Sanders his touches as he continues to show how good he is.
This game has become a bit tougher to predict given recent events for the Nittany Lions. But with Trace McSorley and emerging stars like KJ Hamler and a defense that has played well the majority of the time, this appears to be the perfect rebound situation for Penn State. Indiana is more than capable of giving Penn State some problems with freshman running back Stevie Scott and sophomore quarterback Peyton Ramsey providing a youthful spark on offense, but the defense has been leaving opposing offenses too many opportunities. If Penn State is focused, the Lions should pull away for a comfortable win to regain some confidence with some challenging games coming up.
Prediction: Penn State 42, Indiana 24
— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. 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.