Indiana Hoosiers at Penn State Nittany Lions (-8)
The Penn State Nittany Lions (4-1, 1-0 Big Ten) have arguably their toughest test of the season coming up this Saturday when they host the Indiana Hoosiers (4-1, 0-1 Big Ten) at Beaver Stadium (12:00 PM Eastern).
Penn State has put together a four-game win streak since starting the season with an embarrassing loss to Temple. No longer relying solely on a dominant defense to keep them in games, the team is finding new ways to win week in and week out.
That said, it was the defense that stepped up last week, holding Army to two touchdowns in a closer-than-expected 20-14 win. (Penn State failed to cover as massive 25-point favorites.) Quarterback Christian Hackenberg passed only for 156 yards and one score against the Black Knights, and the running game accumulated only 108 yards, total; but the defense responded by forcing Army into three fumbles.
There was a lot that coach James Franklin could have been upset about after the game, but he chose to accentuate the positives.
“We won today,” Franklin said in the post-game press conference. “We’re 1-0 [this week]. And we’re going to do everything in our power to be 1-0 next week, and I’m going to come in here and I’m going to be positive. I’m going to be positive. I’m not going to go down that [negative] road with anybody. Love our players. Love our coaches. Love our media. Love everybody. Love ‘em.”
Indiana is coming off one of the more impressive losses in recent NCAAF history. Last Saturday, the Hoosiers went toe-to-toe with no. 1-ranked Ohio State for 60 minutes, but couldn’t convert with goal-to-go in the final minute and fell 34-27. The narrow setback was made all the more impressive by the fact that Indiana’s starting QB Nate Sudfeld (1,277 yards, 7 TDs, 1 INT) went out with an ankle injury part way through the game, along with starting running back Jordan Howard (125 car, 709 yards, 4 TDs). Sophomore Zander Diamont was solid in relief of Sudfeld, passing for 76 yards on 14 attempts, and adding another 98 yards on the ground (including a 78-yard TD run).
Diamont’s TD scamper was part of an impressive 402 total yards for the team against Ohio State’s stout defense. Unfortunately for the Hoosiers, their defense had no answer for the Buckeyes in the second half, giving up four majors in the final 30 minutes (after holding Cardale Jones and company to two field goals in the first).
The status of Sudfeld and Howard is unclear at this point, which accounts for part of the fairly large eight-point spread. In the trends, Penn State has dominated the Hoosiers in recent memory, winning nine of the last ten while covering the spread in six (6-3-1 ATS). Indiana’s performance last week was impressive, but they were clearly punching above their weight and were also playing at home. Given the Nittanies recent success against Indian – and the fact that they’ve been able to cover in 13 of their last 19 games as a home favorite – take Penn State and lay the points.
Pick: Penn State -8.
(Photo credit: Ben Stanfield (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode]. Photo has been cropped.)