On paper, Saturday's Big Ten matchup between the Penn State Nittany Lions and Purdue Boilermakers means nothing. In real life, however, you can bet both teams will be treating it like Alabama vs. LSU.
After an offseason to forget and expectations at an all-time low, Penn State has quietly put together a surprisingly solid campaign. The Nittany Lions fell to Ohio State last week, but still sit at 5-3 and 3-1 in the conference.
Nonetheless, a postseason ban makes any game they play meaningless on the bowl picture.
Purdue, meanwhile, has dropped all four of its Big Ten games after starting the season 3-1. If the Boilermakers are going to win three of their last four to make a bowl, it will be of the six-win variety—aka the no-one-outside-of-West-Lafayette-will-care variety.
But while this matchup has no real worth on the conference or postseason picture, it's the Big Ten and pride is always on the line. That makes it a game to watch.
Here's everything you need to know.
When: Saturday, Nov. 3, at 3:30 p.m. ET
Where: Ross-Ade Stadium, West Lafayette, IN
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Betting Line: Penn State (-3.5), according to Covers
Penn State Injuries (via USA Today)
G Mark Arcidiacono, Foot, Questionable
LB Nyeem Wartman, Knee, Out indefinitely
Purdue Injuries (via USA Today)
WR OJ Ross, Toe, Questionable
CB Normondo Harris, Knee, Questionable
WR Raheem Mostert, Knee, Out indefinitely
What's at Stake?
As mentioned earlier, not a whole lot.
Penn State would be battling for a shot in the Big Ten championship if not for a postseason ban, and if Purdue loses this home battle, it will have to win out just to play in a pre-Christmas Bowl.
Nevertheless, pride and momentum for next season will be on the line for both teams, and Danny Hope's seat as Purdue's head coach continues to get hotter with every Big Ten loss.
Penn State Player to Watch: Allen Robinson, WR
QB Matt McGloin is quickly establishing himself as arguably the best quarterback in this league. He's second in completion percentage, first in yards, tied for first in touchdowns, has thrown the second-least amount of interceptions despite the second-most attempts and he's second in QB rating (via ESPN).
But it's difficult to imagine where he'd be without sophomore Allen Robinson.
The big 6'3", 201-pound target has been a model of consistency this season, recording less than five catches just once and less than 80 yards just three times.
He leads the Big Ten in receptions (51), is second in yards (631) and leads in touchdowns (8). The speedy wideout is a fit for defenses to cover, and if he continues his current pace, he's a good bet to be named as a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award.
That's impressive considering passing is usually outlawed in the Big Ten.
Purdue Player to Watch: Akeem Hunt, RB
Hunt will likely only see five or six carries (he's averaging just over four per game on the season) to go along with a few catches and some opportunities in the return game. But every time he touches the ball, the dynamic 5'9" stick of lightning is a threat to hit a home run.
On 67 career carries, the speedy sophomore has tallied a ridiculous 615 yards, which comes out to 9.2 yards per carry. Oddly enough, he's the backup to a slightly bigger Akeem—senior Akeem Shavers. But the more Hunt continues to rattle off 81-yard touchdowns, the less Danny Hope will be able to keep him out of the lineup.
Also, these help:
I'd like to see him race a cheetah...just because.
Key Matchup: Matt McGloin vs. Purdue Pass D
McGloin's ability to turn this passing offense into one of the most dangerous in the league has been one of the major reasons why Penn State has surprised people this year.
If Purdue has any, ahem, hope of pulling off the upset on Saturday, it will have to slow down the QB.
That's easier said than done, but the Boilermakers, who have allowed the ninth-most passing yards in the conference, have some tools to make that happen.
The first is Kawann Short. The big defensive tackle leads the team with four sacks and will have to get to McGloin to ease the pressure on the secondary. The second is Landon Feichter. The walk-on safety's four interceptions, which lead the Big Ten, are a big reason why Purdue is second in the conference in picks.
If Short and Feichter continue their play-making ways, Purdue will be in this one until the final whistle.
The Boilermakers have some weapons on defense to bother Penn State, especially at home, but I just don't see them scoring enough points or slowing McGloin down enough to grab the upset.
Penn State 30, Purdue 20