Indiana vs. Penn State: Complete Game Preview
Penn State will welcome Indiana to Beaver Stadium on Saturday after an emotional and controversial loss to Nebraska.
The Nittany Lions (6-4, 4-2 Big Ten) are hoping for a victory against the Hoosiers (4-6, 2-4 Big Ten) to ensure a winning record in Bill O'Brien's first year.
The Lions season has been a tale of two halves.
No, not a shift between their first and last five games but their performance in the first and second halves of games.
Penn State will need to come out and play well in the first half and hold on in the second if they want to come out on top against an ambiguous Indiana team.
The Hoosiers had a chance last week to make a legitimate run at a Leaders Division title (seriously) but blew it against Wisconsin.
Let's take a look at the upcoming game between Penn State and Indiana.
Game Day Information
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Who: Indiana at Penn State
When: Saturday, 12:00 (ET)
Where: State College, Pa
Stadium: Beaver Stadium
TV: Big Ten Network
Radio: Penn State Radio Network
What It Means to Both Teams
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This matchup is most definitely not a premier one—around the country or in the Big Ten.
However, the game between Indiana and Penn State stills means quite a bit to both teams.
The Nittany Lions have the opportunity to gain their seventh win of the year.
Seven wins wouldn't be something to celebrate most years, but a 7-5 or 8-4 mark this year would be impressive.
Considering national pundits were labeling the Nittany Lions as a three- or four-win team (if they were lucky), seven wins would be something for them to hang their hats on.
For Indiana, this is a must-win if they want to go to a bowl game.
With four wins on the year, Indiana has shown they can keep up with the best of them (see: 52-49 loss to Ohio State on Oct. 13).
However, if they want to make a bowl—a goal that's eluded the program for the last four seasons—they need to win in Beaver Stadium on Saturday.
Player to Watch: Penn State
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Key Player: Zach Zwinak
Zach Zwinak had a huge day last Saturday against Nebraska, despite surrendering a key fumble in red zone, coming out of nowhere to create a surprisingly good running attack for Penn State.
Everyone expected Bill Belton, along with Curtis Dukes and Derek Day, to step in and perform exceptionally well after Silas Redd went to USC in the offseason.
Belton has gone MIA the past few weeks and Dukes is hurt. Zwinak has been a constant rushing threat for the Lions and will need to continue that against Indiana.
Zwinak, who rushed for 141 yards on 21 carries—including a 50-yard touchdown run against Nebraska—barrels over defenders and consistently gets yards after contact.
The Hoosier defense is porous, allowing an average of 32 points a game. The Lions can establish the run and control the game early if Zwinak is in form.
Player to Watch: Indiana
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Key Player: Cody Latimer
The Hoosiers, who are actually just outside the top 25 in passing yards per game, will need to lean heavily on underrated, but gifted, wide receiver Cody Latimer.
Latimer, a sophomore, has been phenomenal for the Hooisers this season and has stepped it up with huge performances, including a three-touchdown day against Iowa.
Shane Wynn leads the team in receptions and receiving touchdowns, but Latimer has more yards (707), averaging more than 16 yards per reception.
Getting big plays from their playmakers and running rampant through the Lions' depth-challenged secondary will be key for Indiana.
However, in order for Indiana to win, Latimer has to remain a relevant factor all day long.
While he's certainly capable of coming up in big spots, Latimer also has had letdown games (his two catches for 43 yards against Michigan State)—something he has to avoid.
Penn State Will Win If...
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The team needs to remain disciplined on defense throughout the game, especially in the fourth quarter.
Considering Indiana hasn't had success against the Lions (winless in their last 15 meetings), they can't allow any penalties to keep Indiana in the game offensively.
As previously mentioned, Zach Zwinak and the Penn State running game have to, and should be able to, provide consistent yardage against Indiana.
For the Lions to win, they need to pound the football down the Hoosiers throats time after time to set up play-action for Matt McGloin.
It's going to be a long day for Indiana if the Lions can grind it out on the run and then let McGloin go over the top via play-action to Allen Robinson and Co.
Indiana Will Win If...
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For Indiana, their best chance of winning would come in a shootout.
Defensively, the Hoosiers are going to have an extremely tough time stopping a Lions offense that has averaged 32 points in Big Ten play.
Considering that, the passing attack will need to get going early and not let up in the second half.
In their four losses the Lions have been outscored 84-28 in the second half, mostly due to fatigue stemming from depth issues.
If the Hoosiers want to win on Saturday they'll need to keep the chains moving and stay on the ball in order to wear down the Penn State defense.
If they can do that, big-play opportunities should present themselves, putting the team in good position to pull off a victory in Beaver Stadium.
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Even though they'll be missing tight end Kyle Carter for the rest of the season, expect Penn State's passing game to thrive off a consistent running game.
Against a mediocre-at-best Indiana defense, look for Zach Zwinak to go over the century mark on the ground and Matt McGloin to throw three touchdowns.
Prediction: Lions 45-21