Penn State Football: Breaking Down Nittany Lions' Keys to Victory vs. Purdue

Donald WoodFeatured ColumnistNovember 3, 2012

STATE COLLEGE, PA - SEPTEMBER 15:  Head coach Bill O'Brien of the Penn State Nittany Lions (C) sings the schools fight song with the team after defeating the Navy Midshipmen 34-7 at Beaver Stadium on September 15, 2012 in State College, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

When the Nittany Lions visit the Purdue Boilermakers Saturday afternoon, Penn State will be looking for redemption after a heartbreaking 35-23 loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes in Week 9.

After five straight victories before being battered by their Big Ten rivals, the Nittany Lions will look to take out their frustration and get back on the right track by destroying an overmatched Purdue team.

These conference rivals are very familiar with each other, but Penn State has the more talented team and will come out victorious at the end of the day.

These are the keys to a potential win.


Consistent Running

Penn State has a duo of outstanding sophomore running backs in Zach Zwinak and Bill Belton, who have helped the Nittany Lions average 134.6 rushing yards per game.

More importantly, the consistency of the running backs has kept many of the team’s drives alive. With inconsistency from the passing game at times in 2012, Penn State has leaned on the rushing attack and the team’s stellar defense.

The team's top two running backs are averaging almost 4.5 yards per carry for the Nittany Lions, so if they can exploit the Boilermakers' shoddy run defense with a strong performance, Penn State will control the clock and the scoreboard.


Protect the Football

While the Purdue defensive unit isn’t the most dangerous in college football, they have solid players across the board that can make a play on the ball. Penn State must protect the football Saturday and avoid turnovers.

Senior QB Matthew McGloin has played well in 2012, throwing just three interceptions, but there is legitimate concern about his accuracy. With a 62.2 completion percentage, his sloppiness with the ball at times will cost him against the Boilermakers.

McGloin must lean more heavily on his better pass-catching receivers, like Allen Robinson, to keep the ball out of Purdue’s hands, but the main responsibility for protecting the football will fall on the shoulders of the senior QB.


Defense, Defense, Defense

Despite a huge turnover and plenty of offseason drama for the Nittany Lions, the Penn State defensive unit remains one of the most talented in all of college football.

With the defenders only allowing 18.1 points per game (ranking the team 18th in the nation), the Lions’ defense is the biggest key to a win for Penn State Saturday afternoon.

Purdue’s pass and rush offenses rank 77th and 68th respectively in terms of yards gained per game, and Penn State should have no problem giving the underwhelming Boilermakers the conference beating they should expect.

After a tough loss to Ohio State, Purdue doesn’t stand a chance against the Nittany Lions.


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