Back To Business In Bloomington

Back To Business In Bloomington

The first of two bye weeks in Penn State’s 2013 season is now in the rearview mirror and the conference schedule begins on Saturday against the 2-2 Indiana Hoosiers. The good news is that Penn State has never lost to Indiana in 16 games since it joined the Big Ten in 1993. The bad news is that all streaks come to an end at some point.

Simply by the law of odds (or is it physics?), Indiana will beat Penn State one of these years. It will happen. The question is when; which year will Indiana finally beat the Nittany Lions?

The further good news is that Indiana will be an annual component of State’s schedule for the foreseeable future when the new divisional alignments go into effect next season. There’s no further bad news related to that.

So what can Nittany Nation expect this weekend? The most important factor will be the rip-off Oregon-style offense that Kevin Wilson has installed in Bloomington. Penn State showed during its only legitimate sample size that its secondary is – or can be, at this juncture – vulnerable to the combination of an accurate passer and wide receivers that are not vertically-challenged. Because no team will find reasonable success on the ground against Penn State this season (injuries notwithstanding), the fear for Penn State fans this weekend should be IU’s wideouts finding time and space against a Penn State secondary which showed vulnerability against a very good Central Florida offensive squad.

jordan lucas penn stateThis game will be a litmus test for Trevor Williams and Jordan Lucas (and to a certain extent Da’Quan Davis, when applicable/when John Butler is forced to insert the nickel package). The cornerbacks will be alone on that proverbial island against, intermittently, Cody Latimer, who is 6”3’, Kofi Hughes, who is 6”2’, 6-foot-3 Duwyce Wilson and diminutive speedster Shane Wynn, who is basically Indiana’s version of former Nittany Lion Devon Smith, who bailed on head coach Bill O’Brien in the wake of the scandal and now plays for Marshall.

If Indiana ever had a Penn State team ripe for the picking to end its all-time goose egg in this series, this is it. And Wilson knows it.

Despite Indiana’s built-in advantages for this particular encounter, the smart money remains with Penn State. Butler, as aforementioned here previously, was embarrassed on his home turf in prime time several weeks ago. It’s hard to imagine that a coach with his intelligence and a full two weeks to prepare will fail to have his unit ready to execute with precision.

Although only three of the final point totals in its four games so far this young season reinforce the same, the Hoosiers are eighth in the nation in both total offense (547 yards per game) and passing offense (348 yards per game). This team can move the football. Conversely, albeit against a less than formidable group of opponents, State is ranked 23rd in the nation in passing yards allowed and 20th in pass efficiency defense, which might be the most underrated and important/revealing statistic in the college game.

Akin to the timeframe of 8:52-8:56 p.m. during every episode of Murder, She Wrote when Jessica Fletcher would solve practice legend teethe crime using flashback sequences, this game will likely not be decided until the final few minutes. Expect a shootout with both teams scoring in the high 20s/low 30s. Also, keep an eye out because this series, for some unknown reason, seems to always produce/include a bizarre and uncommon occurrence – a blocked punt, a missed extra point, a recovered onsides kick. It wouldn’t be a Penn State-Indiana game if the final score wasn’t somehow a crooked, non-traditional football point total.

Indiana will get the better of PSU at some point. It just won’t be this year.