A couple of things stick out on the Hoosiers’ schedule this year: 1) they and the Buckeyes bludgeoned each other to a 52-49 win for Brutus, and 2) Indiana scores a helluva lot of points for the slackers everyone in the Big Ten thinks they are. What gives with that? With our usual panache, we’ll try to figure these guys out.
The Indiana Hoosiers (4-6, 2-4 Big Ten) invade Beaver Stadium to take on the Nittany Lions (6-4, 4-2). The Who-siers are reeling from a 62-14 loss to Wisconsin in which the Badgers piled up a record-setting 524 yards rushing. Meanwhile, the Lions are coming off a controversial 32-23 loss to Nebraska, which has a lot of people pissing and moaning about bad calls in the Big Ten. (We’ll have none of the PSU Paranoia here, but if it makes you feel better…)
The post title refers to a comment I read from one sportswriter after the Penn State vs. Ohio State game, in an article comparing Penn State’s inept performance against the near upset of the Big Ten’s best by the Hoosiers. “They know who they are,” he said, “and they just played their game without caring about who the other guys are.” That’s a pretty simplistic analysis, but there’s something to be said for just going out there and playing damn football.
Obviously, just bearing in mind the demolition job done by the Badgers, the Indiana rushing defense just plain sucks the big one. If you want rankings, they’re an embarrassing #118 in the FBS, with only Miami (Ohio) and Eastern Michigan on their tail. The 524 yards against them didn’t help — hahahhahahhahaha — as they have given up over five yards per carry on the average through ten games and their yards against average is a suckful 244 yards. Hell, the Badgers just said, “screw it!”, and ran Montee Ball and his supporting cast at them all day long, 56 carries for an average of 8.8 yards per carry.
Now, the Penn State running game is no great shakes, and Zach Zwinach is no Montee Ball. (Senator, I knew Montee Ball. Montee Ball was a friend of mine, and Senator, you’re no Montee Ball. This is an oblique reference to former Vice President of the United States and United States Senator Dan Quayle of Indiana, who did not attend IU. He graduated from DePauw. I digress.) However, this will be like pouring water through a rusted out sieve. Zwinach should have an easy 100 yard game, maybe 200. Wonder whether O’Brien’s Doghouse resident Bill Belton will get some time. Like a hot knife through butta! If Belton stinks against Indiana, there’s no hope for him. I’m thinking he’ll play because he’s been a good boy in practice and O’Brien will want to give him a confidence builder. If so, there’s no reason both he and Zwinach can’t get 100 yards. Throw in a 69 for Mike Zordich, which he’ll appreciate, and you can expect perhaps a 300-plus yard day.
The Hoosiers’ pass defense is mediocre, but it shows up being a helluva lot better than it really is because no one sees much of a need to pass on them. They’ve allowed only 201.8 passing yards per game, but what the hell does that mean if everyone is just handing the ball off against them on four out of five plays. With that in mind, angry boy Matt McGloin will find receivers, unless O’Brien pisses him off by telling him to hand the ball to Zwinach on four plays out of five. Look for another tantrum early in the second half because, to quote O’Brien, “we have free speech in this country.” But I digress. Whattya think? Maybe 300 yards passing, if McGloin doesn’t get too pissed off and starts throwing pick-sixes?
(I sound down on McGloin, but I like his progress this year. Thing is, he has to control that temper and direct “the force” toward being less pissed off and more focused. Yeah, that’s easier said than done, I know, but I’m just sayin’. If you don’t agree, then you probably wouldn’t agree with me if I said that there is no Santa Claus.)
So, like a 600-yard game for Penn State, if all goes well? Whattya think?
What can Indiana’s rushing offense do against our vaunted front seven. I’ve been using that sarcasm all year now, so I better tell you that I think they’re pretty damn good, with a couple of NFL-capable guys in there; however, the absence of depth is a serious issue that might have led to several second-half letdowns this year. Individual talent, we’ve got; enough of it to last a whole game — that’s in doubt. The ideal game plan for an opponent would involve lots of punishing up-the-gut runs, and wait for the defense to start sucking wind. I think we’ve seen that a few times this year, most recently in the Nebraska game, which was another second-half failure. But does Indiana have the talent to do that? Ranking 83rd in the FBS with an average of 138.2 yards per game, I think not. Its leading rusher, junior running back Stephen Houston, is averaging 58 yards.
On the other hand, the passing hand, aerial supremacy is the Hoosiers’ only hope. Ranked 26th nationally against Penn State’s secondary, which also lacks depth, a hot-handed Cameron Coffman could give the Lions trouble. Trouble, as it were, is his middle name. OK, I made that up. He threw for 282, 275, and 315 yards, respectively, against the decent defenses of Moo U., Ohio State, and Iowa. Through ten games he has had a paltry six intercepted passes — none against those three schools — and a total of twelve touchdown passes. If the defensive front seven tire in the second half and the sometimes erratic secondary makes a few fatal misjudgements… Oy!
I should write the same thing each week about special teams. Penn State’s suck, however last week Sam Ficken had a perfect day, kicking three of three field goals! Cool! Maybe he is salvageable, as of the 11th game of the year.
That’s enough! Enough pseudo-analysis (or “breaking-down”). Oh, yeah — I just thought of another sports wonk atrocity: “reset”. A “game reset” means we’ll show you statistics thus far during the game. Do they all go back to zero once they’re reset?
Who’s a Hoo?
Today’s featured alumnus is Internet wunderkind and sports owner Mark Cuban. Cuban, 54, owns the Dallas Mavericks, among lots of other billionaire toys. How did a nice Jewish boychik (original family name “Chabenisky”) from Pittsburgh wind up with a degree from Indiana University (not the one in Pennsylvania)? Actually, he transferred from the University of Pittsburgh after a year, and who can blame him for wanting to leave Pitt? Of course, he chose Indiana’s Kelley School of Business because it was the cheapest of all the business schools he investigated. His business career started at the age of 12 when he sold garbage bags to raise funds for a new pair of sneakers. He funded his college expenses by collecting and selling stamps. Anyone who pulls the wealth envy crap on Cuban ought to understand that he’s seen both sides of that fence. Maybe that’s why his NBA players think he’s such a great guy — he can rub elbows with mere millionaires like them and not act like he’s slumming.
Miscellaneous Notions and Prediction
Such nice weather for football. You never know what to expect in November in State College. But this will be a perfect day, mostly sunny with game-time temperature around 47° Fahrenheit or 24.8438° Richter. (Yes, there is a Richter scale for temperature — so don’t expect the ground to shake!) Winds will be calm, so weather is absolutely not a factor.
The intangibles associated with this game are many. The emotional loss to Nebraska deflated Penn State’s communal ego. The job of focusing these young guys rests on Bill O’Brien’s shoulders. Hillary said that it takes a community to raise a child, but The Nittany Turkey says it takes a damn good football coach to make men out of a bunch of boys. Indiana knows who they are — if not, they were told who they really are by Wisconsin — and Penn State needs to figure out who they are and where they’re going. With end of season doldrums come let-downs on the field, but they’re playing for pride out there, if only O’Brien can instill some of that magical commodity in them. Our boys need to show Indiana who they are.
If all goes well, the outcome of this game should be equivalent to all the others played between the two. In spite of what the NCAA has done with its vacating of PSU wins, Penn State has won them all. However, Indiana has been pesky at times, including that 29-28 game in 1994 that could have been the straw that broke the national championship’s back that year. So, yeah, it’s a major thing to not look past this scrappy band of vandals, as perhaps Moo U. and Ohio State might have done earlier this year. We need to give them the full Montee treatment, so to speak.
I’m out of puns, so it’s time for the Official Turkey Poop Prediction for this 11th game of Penn State’s first sanction clouded season. Lions favored by 17, up from an initial two-touchdown opening spread, with an over/under of 56. Fifty-six? Do whut? Hell, Wisconsin scored more than that alone, without any help from the Hoosiers. Or maybe with lots of help. Anyhow, I don’t see any chance for an upset here at all (which means they better damn well be careful out there). Penn State 45, Indiana 16. Take the OVER!