Penn State Nittany Lions (-7, 44 o/u) at Indiana Hoosiers
The Penn State Nittany Lions (4-4, 1-4 Big Ten) will look for their second Big Ten win of the year when they travel to Bloomington to face the Indiana Hoosiers (3-5, 0-4 Big Ten) this Saturday, November 8, at Memorial Stadium (12:00 p.m. Eastern).
This game will feature two teams trying to salvage their conference schedules, as Indiana is one of the only Big Ten teams with a worse conference record than Penn State. The Hoosiers are 0-4 inside the Big Ten, with three straight conference losses in the last three weeks. The Hoosiers were walloped in all three: 45-29 at Iowa, 56-17 against Michigan State, and, most recently, 34-10 at Michigan.
Not only have the Hoosiers been bad straight-up this season, they have also been poor against the spread, sitting at just 2-6 ATS; they have failed to cover in each of their last three. The main culprit is the defense, which allows 34.8 points per game (107th in the nation). The offense has been more respectable, averaging just over 27 points per game (78th in the country).
The Nittany Lions got off to a roaring start this season, winning four straight, including a conference road win over Rutgers. However, in the last four games, the wheels have come off the bus for the Nittanies; they have dropped four straight conference games and are now tied for second-last in the Big Ten East. Penn State can take some solace from the fact that three out of the four losses were all decided by seven points or fewer. Two weeks ago, the Nittany Lions came tantalizingly close to a massive upset as they forced Ohio State to double-overtime, only to fall 31-24. Last weekend, they conceded a last-minute field goal to Maryland and lost by one (20-19). That loss must have stung a little extra after the Terrapins’ team captains refused to shake hands with the Nittanies during the pregame coin toss.
Statistically, Penn State is the polar opposite to Indiana, which should make for an interesting contrast in styles. The Nittany Lions have the ninth best defense in the country, allowing just 17.8 points per game; but their offense is one of the worst in all of the FCS, averaging 21.3 points per game (109th in the nation). Quarterback Christian Hackenberg has put together some good games this season, including three straight 300-yard passing games to open the year. But his numbers have tailed off since, and he hasn’t reached the 300-yard mark in any of the last five. After posting a 134 QB rating in his Freshman campaign last season, Hackenberg is suffering from the dreaded Sophomore slump and has just a 112 QB rating this year. He will have a great opportunity to get back on track this weekend, though, against an Indiana defense that gives up an average of 275 passing yards per game.
Penn State is currently a seven-point favorite. For the trend-watchers, Indiana is 1-7 SU in its last eight home games against Penn State. While the Nittany Lions tend to come out on top in Bloomington, they haven’t cashed a lot of tickets, going just 1-3-1 ATS in their last five games at Indiana.
(Photo credit: Ben Stanfield (user name acaben) of flickr [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)