Purdue vs. Penn State: Complete Game Preview

Colin Tansits@@colin_tansitsContributor IOctober 31, 2012

Purdue vs. Penn State: Complete Game Preview

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    After both teams lost on Saturday, both Purdue and Penn State will be coming into this weekend’s game in West Lafayette looking for a win.

    The Boilermakers are looking to snap a four-game losing streak, while Penn State is trying to rebound from a hard-fought loss in Happy Valley against Ohio State.

    The Nittany Lions currently lead the series that began in 1951 against Purdue 11-3-1, and the Boilermakers haven’t beaten Penn State since 2004.

    After winning five straight games then losing to Ohio State, Bill O’Brien needs to win Saturday to prevent his team from going downhill fast.

    For Purdue, coach Danny Hope needs to get his Boilermakers their first win in the Big Ten to keep them relevant at the end of the season.

    Saturday is a must-win for both teams, and it will be coverage on ESPNU with kickoff at 3:30 pm.

    Here’s a position-by-position preview of what you will be seeing in this Big Ten Conference matchup.


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    Much like Penn State last season, this year the Boilermakers have a bit of a quarterback controversy.

    Caleb TerBush, who has been the starter since last year, is being benched in favor of Robert Marve.

    Both TerBush and Marve are seniors and played in games this year, with TerBush throwing for 995 yards, 11 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Marve took care of the ball, throwing for 597 yards, six touchdowns and only two interceptions.

    This week Matt McGloin should be looking to build off last week’s loss, where he had a key turnover in the second half. He has thrown for 2,115 yards, 16 touchdowns and only three interceptions this year.

    Purdue’s defense won’t be quite as fast as Ohio State, and McGloin won’t be forced into making decisions as quickly.

    Look to see McGloin able to sit in the pocket and make the right throw.

    Edge: Penn State

Running Back

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    Both Penn State and Purdue are in similar situations in the running back department.

    Bill Belton and Zach Zwinak lead the Nittany Lion rushing attack, combining for 670 total yards and six touchdowns. Zwinak leads Penn State with 411 yards rushing on the year.

    Akeem Shavers and Akeem Hunt have combined for 760 yards and five touchdowns this year, striking an odd comparison to Penn State’s running back duo.

    Neither Penn State nor Purdue have the best running backs in the Big Ten, but the rushers for the Boilermakers have more experience and big-play ability.

    Shavers is a senior and appeared 12 games last year for Purdue. Aside from Shavers though, both Hunt and Brandon Cottom provide home run threats and both have broke runs for over 80 yards.

    Edge: Purdue

Wide Receiver

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    With all that has happened to Penn State this offseason, the wide receivers were one of the hardest hit positions. Derek Moye graduated and Justin Brown and Devon Smith left the team, leaving a group of unknowns for McGloin to throw to.

    Allen Robinson emerged quickly as McGloin’s favorite target and as a sophomore has shown serious talent, bringing in 52 catches for 631 yards and eight touchdowns.

    The Boilermakers, on the other hand, don’t really have a solidified go-to threat. Antavian Edison is the team’s leading receiver with 432 yards and six touchdowns, and Gary Bush has 235 yards receiving with five touchdowns.

    Although Purdue doesn’t have a very strong run game, its passing game also is marred with inconsistency at the quarterback position.

    Robinson alone is one of the best receivers in the Big Ten, and he, along with Brandon Moseby-Felder and Alex Kenney, provides solid targets for McGloin.

    Edge: Penn State

Tight End

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    It has been well publicized that Bill O’Brien knows how to use tight ends in his offense. Everyone has seen the tape comparing a touchdown scored by Matt Lehman earlier this year to a touchdown scored by Rob Gronkowski last year.

    Well, all of this hype is true. O’Brien does know how to use his tight ends, and their production proves that point.

    Freshman Kyle Carter was recently named on the John Mackey Award watch list, with 441 yards receiving and two touchdowns on the year. Along with Carter, Matt Lehman is also a big target for McGloin. Lehman has three touchdowns and 184 yards receiving.

    For Purdue, its tight ends do a little more blocking than catching. Gabe Holmes and Crosby Wright are the Boilermakers’ top tight ends, and Holmes leads the two with a touchdown and 104 yards receiving.

    Carter’s status for Saturday is day-to-day with an ankle injury, but the Lions are deep at tight end with Jesse James, Garry Gilliam and Lehman. All three of them can definitely step up.

    Edge: Penn State 

Offensive Line

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    Although Purdue doesn’t have one go-to running back, it still gets the job done on the ground mainly due to a solid offensive line. This Boilermaker line only has two seniors and two juniors starting on it.

    They have allowed 18 sacks this year, while paving the way for 1,290 total team rushing yards

    These guys are massive with three linemen over 6’5” and only their right guard, freshman Robert Kugler, weighing in under 300 pounds.

    Penn State’s line has been a little less consistent. On Saturday, McGloin was sacked four times while the team only rushed for a total of 32 yards.

    The Nittany Lions’ offensive line has done a solid job of protecting its quarterback, but the Penn State running game has a mediocre 1,077 total yards rushing.

    Some of this can be blamed on injuries and lack of production by running backs, but there is still some blame on the line.

    Both Purdue and Penn State have faced Ohio State this season, and against the Buckeyes last Saturday, the Nittany Lions' line got manhandled.

    Edge: Purdue

Defensive Line

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    Over the past few years, Penn State has had a strong defensive line with Devon Still and Tamba Hali both being drafted into the NFL.

    This year Jordan Hill has stepped up and shown that he is deserving of all the hype.

    Along with Hill, defensive ends Sean Stanley and Deion Barnes anchor a defensive line that has recorded seven-and-a-half sacks, three forced fumbles and 98 total tackles.

    These guys are the real deal and can really get after the passer.

    Purdue’s defensive line, led by Kawann Short and Ryan Russell can get after the passer too, recording eight sacks as a group.

    Both of these teams have strong defensive lines, but Hill is the difference-maker. He has had a relatively quiet year until recently, recording 16 tackles and one sack over the past two games.

    Hill is slightly undersized at 6’1”, but he makes up for it with speed and talent.

    Edge: Penn State


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    Penn State isn’t called “Linebacker U” for no reason; it has a tradition of extremely talented linebackers and Michael Mauti, Gerald Hodges and Glenn Carson all fit that mold.

    Mauti has been the undisputed leader of the Nittany Lions both on and off the field, while Hodges continues to show why so many NFL scouts love him.

    Mauti, Hodges and Carson are the top three tacklers on the team and have combined for 193 tackles and three interceptions this year.

    It’s seems almost unfair to have to compare Purdue’s linebackers to Penn State’s.

    Two of the Boilermaker’s starters, Robert Maci and Joe Gilliam, have combined for 51 tackles this year; Mauti has 78 tackles so far this season.

    Will Lucas leads Purdue’s linebacker corps with 41 tackles and two forced fumbles.

    But again, the linebackers in Happy Valley are among the best in the nation.

    Edge: Penn State


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    For how thin Penn State is in the secondary, the Nittany Lions have done very well. In eight games this year, the Lions have only given up nine touchdowns through the air and have seven total interceptions.

    Stephon Morris was the only returning starter for this season, but the secondary has still done well. Adrian Amos leads the secondary with one interception, while three of the four starters in the defensive backfield have over 30 tackles.

    But for as surprising as Penn State’s secondary has been, it is still susceptible to the big play and has given up passing plays going for as much as 72 yards.

    Purdue is in a similar situation with Penn State, having only one senior starting in the defensive secondary. But the youth doesn’t seem to be a problem; sophomore safety Will Feitcher leads the team in tackles with 49 and has four interceptions on the year.

    As a whole, the Boilermakers’ defense has 11 interceptions this year and has only given up 12 touchdowns through the air.

    It will be a good matchup to see whether Purdue’s secondary can stop McGloin and Robinson.

    They have the talent, but will the Boilermakers be able to do it?

    Edge: Purdue

Special Teams

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    The woes of the Penn State kicking game began early this season and haven’t really stopped. Although Sam Ficken has made five field goals this year, every Penn State fan still seems to hold his or her breath during extra points.

    On the other hand, Alex Butterworth hasn’t been very consistent punting either. He averages 36.6 yards per punt, but has been able to boot the ball up to 58 yards.

    Penn State’s return game is essentially a non-factor. Except for one return for 46 yards by Jesse Della Valle, the Nittany Lions haven’t seen a kick return past 27 yards.

    For Purdue, punting is a strong suit with Cody Webster averaging 42.9 yards per punt and his longest punt going for 72 yards.

    Although the Boilermakers’ place kickers aren’t perfect, Paul Griggs has still been able to put three of his five kicks through the uprights.

    In the return game, Akeem Hunt is a serious threat; he already took one kickoff to the house, and he averages 21.4 yards per return.

    Penn State’s special teams have been stagnant all year, and Hunt provides electric speed returning kicks for Purdue.

    Edge: Purdue