Our Nittany Lions of Penn State (6-4, 3-3 Big Ten) will perform for a friendly home crowd in our nation’s capital where they will face their penultimate Big Ten opponent, Indiana (4-6, 0-6). This was originally scheduled as a road game, but the Hoosiers succumbed to the allure of megabucks, which they were offered to move the game to Landover, Maryland, Penn State’s backyard. Thus, the stands of gigantic (largest in the NFL) FedEx field will be largely blue and white — essentially a home way from home game.
It is no wonder that the perennial Big Ten cellar dwelling Hoosiers heeded the pecuniary call despite the venue’s propinquity to Penn State. As far back as this old Turkey can remember, Indiana has been regarded as a “basketball school”, not a “football school.” Their last Rose Bowl appearance was in 1968 — they lost 14-7 to the USC Trojans led by a 128 yard performance by O. J. Simpson. It has been over 20 years since an Indiana football player has won a major award. Memorial Stadium is small by Big Ten standards, holding just under 53,000 hapless but loyal Hoosier fans. Typically, they fall short of a sellout by 10,000 seats, but the house was full for this year’s 42-35 loss to Michigan, attended no doubt by a plethora of Michigan fans who can’t get enough of Denard Robinson. The bottom line is that the two mil is a lot more than the Hoosiers would be getting by playing this game at home and the Redskins organization knows that Penn State fans will suck up lots and lots of tickets and potentially fill 91,704 seat FedEx Field. Besides, Indiana University no doubt figured on losing this one — in 13 encounters, they’ve never beaten Penn State.
Indiana, as I’ve mentioned is winless in the Big Ten this season. They’ve played some interesting games, though, and they might not be as bad as their record makes them seem, in spite of last week’s 83-20 laugher loss to Wisconsin. The previous week, the Hoosiers had Iowa on the ropes and had unleashed a sure knockout punch which did not connect, as time ran out. The touchdown pass was in the hands of its receiver, who was all alone in the end zone, and he just plain flat out dropped the damn thing, letting Iowa squeak by with an 18-13 win. All year long, they’ve figured out how to lose the close ones.
The Hoosiers rely heavily on the passing attack, throwing an average of over 40 times per game. Thus, they rank 16th in passing yards versus 108th in rushing. The passing chores are adeptly handled by senior quarterback Ben Chappell, a 6-3, 239 lb behemoth. Last week he completed eight of fourteen passes for 62 yards and a touchdown against Wisconsin before leaving with a hip injury. At this time, he is probable for the Penn State game. (I would have preferred to sit out that 83-20 drubbing if I were he, too, if only to avoid the embarrassment of being associated with that game in any way.) Alas, Chappell has thrown 19 interceptions in 10 games this year. His two favorite targets are 6-5, 215 lb junior Demario Belcher and 6-3, 205 lb junior Tandon Doss. Their size could be an issue for Penn State’s 81st ranked pass efficiency defense.
Indiana’s running game is almost nonexistent, producing an average of 104 yards per game. However, if I were Indiana head coach Bill Lynch, I would try the run against Penn State’s 83rd ranked rushing defense, which is yielding over 172 yards per game. The PSU front seven just don’t have what it takes this year, and the loss of Mike Mauti in last week’s debacle with Ohio State makes it even worse. I would hope to see Khari Fortt this week, either at linebacker or defensive end.
For Penn State, red-shirt sophomore Matt McGloin will once again start at quarterback and he will have his usual full complement of talented receivers. Indiana’s pass efficiency defense is ranked 114th, which should be an incentive for the coaching staff to let McGloin air it out early in the game to establish a lead. (Then, they’ll screw it up by going all conservative, letting Indiana hang around for the rest of the game because Joe Paterno wouldn’t even think of running up 83 points on a weak opponent as his Badger counterpart Brett Bielema did, but I digress.) The terrestrial corps of Royster, Redd, and Green (just in time for Christmas) should be able to wage a successful campaign, especially when the aforementioned conservative clamp-down occurs. Royster probably won’t see much action, as he suffered a minor knee injury against Ohio State. Stephfon Green got his bell rung in that game, too. Look for freshman suPerstar (with a capital “P”) Redd to get most of the carries.
As for special teams, I don’t want to bore you with a lot of mumbo jumbo and statistical pontification. Penn State punter Anthony Fera will miss this game and probably the next due to an emergency appendectomy. His backup, Alex Butterworth, has no actual game time punting the football, so you might want to watch the game just to see if something funny happens when the Lions show up in punt formation — if they even have to punt in this game. I would expect old Joe to be going for it on a lot of fourth downs instead of punting. Against Indiana’s defense, why the hell not?
As Joe so frequently tells his guys, “Just go out there and have some fun!” I think that’s what this game is all about. Well, for Penn State, anyway. Coming off a second half beat-down in which they squandered a 14-3 halftime lead by allowing 35 unanswered points by Ohio State, they better be hopping mad. It would be cruel fun to turn the tables and do that to someone else, for a change. And it is time for the Hoosiers to have some fun after having been slaughtered by Wisconsin 83-20? They don’t have much to lose here, although they could become bowl eligible by beating both Penn State and Purdue. Fat chance of that happening — they’ve gone to one bowl game in the past 17 years. If they can overcome the self-esteem issues associated with being taken apart by the Badgers, they might just make this one interesting, especially when the Penn State coaching brain trust switches into Sphincter Mode. So, everybody just go out there and have some fun. Yeah.
It’s a 12:00 noon start and it’s a semi-road game. By this I mean that the Nittany Lions have to travel to get to Landover. You would think that they’d take some buses down there due to the close proximity, but they’re flying. Paterno’s reasoning is that it’s a noon start, so there just isn’t time for buses. The issues with noon starts have been beaten to death but, hey, you make your bed and you must sleep in it. If the Lions had put a few more wins on the scoreboard, they would be playing at 3:30, but noooooooooo. Anyway, the early start might mean that our guys are still half asleep in the first quarter, which would allow Indiana to have a head start like last year, when they went up 10-0 early in the game.
Therefore, my keys to the game for our Nittany Lions are: play a complete game, have fun, and kick ass. Any questions?
Although the field might still be a bit soft from the recent rain storms, the weather looks good for this contest. The forecast for Saturday is breezy with plenty of sunshine and a global warming related high of 60.
And now. that moment you’ve all been waiting for with bated anticipation, the frequently fallible, caustically clairvoyant, perniciously penurious Official Turkey Poop Prediction! But first, let me say that just because the season didn’t go the way we all wanted to, it’s no time to just say “piss on it!” Especially for players. Specifically for Sean Stanley and Silas Redd, who were both arrested for disorderly conduct relating to public urination this week. There are still two games to play, so dump your damn bladders in appropriate receptacles and play some damn football! (We’re not sure whether either will play on Saturday, as Joe was coy about Redd during his press conference and only said that Stanley had been a disappointment on the field, but I digress.) I think the gamblers have this thing all wrong, but nobody’s putting much money on either of these two fickle, mediocre teams. (And calling them “mediocre” is giving Indiana a helluva lot of credit. I’m in a generous mood.) The books opened this one with a 10.5 point spread favoring PSU and an over/under of 57, suggesting a final score of 34-23. My generous mood continues when I tell you to take Penn State and the over. The Nittany Lions should win this one going away. Get mad, Lions! Penn State 42, Indiana 27.