The title refers to the last meeting between Indiana and Penn State, which did not go the Lions’ way. In fact, it was probably Bill O’Brien‘s worst game in his brief, albeit sanctified, career with the Nits. (Dude, in view of the present beatification of O’Brien, you would find it shocking to read what we were writing about BoB back then.) The game? It wasn’t even close, with the Hoosiers prevailing 44-24 in their first ever victory over mighty Penn State.
In what might well be the battle for the cellar of the Big Ten Eastern Division, the Indiana Hoosiers (3-5, 0-4 Big Ten) will host the mighty Penn State Nittany Kitties (4-4, 1-4) at high noon on Saturday, a couple of struggling teams seeking some shred of respect. Times change, people change, coaches change, and players get injured, but one thing has remained the same between last year and this year: the venue. The game was played at Memorial Stadium last year and it will be played there again this year. These two teams have fallen upon misfortune. Indiana has shown a flash of brilliance in beating ranked Missouri, but has mainly sucked, as usual. Indiana’s three game losing streak is eclipsed only by Penn State’s, which is four. Clearly, someone’s losing streak has to end in this High Noon classic. Do not forsake me, oh my darling! Where’s Gary Cooper when we need him?
After losing starting quarterback Nate Sudfeld with a separated shoulder in the Iowa game, as well as losing his backup Chris Covington to an ACL. Those two are likely out for the year. The Hoosiers were forced to start freshman Zander Diamont for the Moo U. game. They’ve also lost Diamont’s backup for a while, Nate Boudreau, with a sprained shoulder — throwing arm, of course. (Head coach Kevin Wilson must have blasphemed or something.) They got a scare when their top offensive lineman, Jason Spriggs, was carted off with a backboard and neck brace against MSU. They lost that game 56-17.
Then they went to the Big House and lost to Michigan 34-10. How can any self-respecting defense give up 34 points to MICHIGAN!!?!?!
Sudfeld finished his season with 101 completions out of 167 attempts for 1151 yards and six touchdowns. Without him — or without even so much as his second-string backup — Indiana’s offense is left with just a single dangerous weapon, who happens to be one of the top rushers in the country, junior Tevin Coleman, who has amassed 1300 yards on 162 carries thus far, with 11 touchdowns. He’s also had 17 receptions for 140 yards. His signature game was the losing effort against Iowa, in which he gained 219 yards on 14 attempts for an average of 14.6 ypc, and scored three touchdowns. He ranks third in rushing yards among FBS players, ahead of Wisconsin Super Stud Melvin Gordon and Nebraska Super Stud Ameer Abdullah.
I’ve often stated that when the best of the best meet, it’s the defensive side that usually wins out. Penn State’s excellent run defense is ranked #1, ahead of Alabama, Louisville, and Moo U., allowing an average of 76.9 yards per game. Something’s gotta give! Methinks it will be poor Tevin who will be brought back to earth. No 200 yard game here, son! This will be a fun matchup to behold. Aside from the usual suspects, like Super Stud MLB Mike Hull, Ima looooove watching Marcus Allen participate in the fun. He’s got that Troy Polamalu kind of crazy-ass spirit you like to see in a safety, man. I hope it’s not just freshman enthusiasm that will wear off after a few games.
This would be a good game for Christian Hackenberg to get back into the groove, if he can wake up in time. (Hey, with the time zone morass in Indiana coupled with the changeover from daylight saving time, I’m not sure whether the kickoff is really noon or just when the hell it is in real time. But it’s close enough to remind ourselves how poorly Penn State has typically played noon starts on the road. I don’t expect much of a change here, although Memorial Stadium will be half empty and the other half won’t really give a shit.) One problem I can foresee for Hack is one Mr. Timothy Bennett, a senior cornerback who I believe we might be watching on Sundays this time next year. Bennett was a guy who chased Allen “Gimme Da Damn Ball” Robinson from across the field and caught up with him last year. He’s had a ho-hum year this year with no interceptions thus far. But don’t count him out when Hack fires one of those mortar rounds in desperation. Assuming Hack loses the attitude and has been drilled well enough on getting rid of the ball when the five traffic cones (formerly known as the offensive line) and the matador (formerly known as the rotating law firm of Belton & Lynch) fail to hold the pass rush at bay for more than two seconds. Indiana’s overall passing defense ranks 99th nationally. I’m assuming that Bennett will be all over DaeSean Hamilton, which might cause the young Hackster some consternation as he runs through his progressions long enough to get sacked. So, I’m hoping against hope that he will have developed some presence of mind in what would ordinarily be called the pocket (in this case, more like a collapsing pup tent).
The Penn State running game? Yeah, they’ll try to establish it. Indiana’s rushing defense is middle of the pack, allowing about 170 yards per game. Thing is, they haven’t had to deal with such a totally incompetent running game before, which now has lost its best straight-ahead runner, Zach Zwinak. Bill Belton dances too much before hitting the hole, a la Austin Scott, so the holes wind up closing up quickly as the orange cones fall over. Akeel Lynch needs some good seal blocking from nonexistent blocking tight ends, along with the other five cones, which he won’t get, so his potential won’t be realized. In short, the running game will once again sputter. It is so bad that they don’t even have enough attempts to make some of the stat lists. If they did, they’d rank around 120th.
No rant about the Penn State offense would be complete without the addition of the following three words: Fire John Donovan. LOL. Yeah, the root of all evil. The scapegoat. The incompetent fool.
Oh, do I have to write about special teams? Sheeeeit! Sam Ficken turns out to be everybody’s bright spot, but that’s where it ends. No punting game, no return game, no coverage. It just sucks. Penn State is averaging 34.4 net punting yards for the year thus far, an abomination. Neither freshman punter has shown much of anything. In returns, PSU ranks 97th nationally. I could go on. I won’t.
But this could be a low-scoring game, because the Nittany Lions don’t know how to score, so the battle of field position is most important. Coleman and a massive offensive line can wear down a defense. You don’t want to be starting off Indiana at the 40, especially in the second half.
I didn’t mention turnovers, and I don’t mean those triangular pastry thingies. Both teams suck, ranking 90th and 96th for Penn State and Indiana, respectively. However, if you boil out the five interceptions handed to PSU on a silver platter, which I always do because they were anomalous, you find the Nittany Lions in the deep dark dank dusty dungeon of despair, with a -8, and that’s badddddddddddddd. Indiana has a -4. Sloppo!
Weather — Or Not!
The weather promises to be a minor player in this contest, with a high of 50° plus a shower or two forecast. Hang onto the ball, boys!
I’m too bummed to write about a distinguished alumnus this week. There are many to select from, but I’m not in the mood.
So, we’ll cut to the chase…
Here we are, in the home stretch, the ninth game of a season that seems like it started last week. Time sure does fly, and that must be why the offensive line remains offensive eleven weeks into the season. And so, boys and girls, it’s time for the ninth Official Turkey Poop prediction of this fast moving season. We start as usual with the gamblers’ take on the game, which at the moment favors Penn State by 6 with an over/under of 44. (It opened at PSU -5, went to -7, and is now back at -6). This suggests a final score along the lines of 25-19 in favor of the Nittany Lions. If I’m gamblin’, I’m thinking about the slow noon start, the sloppy turnovers, and the one-dimensional Indiana offense. Kevin Wilson is going to have to coach his boys to near perfection not to suffer their fourth straight loss. I’m also thinking that Penn State has managed to score no more than 24 points in any Big Ten game this season, and that point total required an overtime. Otherwise, we saw them score 13 against the so-called worst defense in the Big Ten, followed by 6, 13, and 19. I don’t think the offense gets in gear for this one, either, and the slow start will make us all worry. I’m pretty sure PSU won’t cover the spread, but they will win. Final score, Penn State 16, Indiana 10. Take the under.
I’ll be back with more B.S. sometime after the game is actually played.