It's quite the coincidence that this week's Penn State vs. Purdue game is being played at Ross-Ade Stadium considering how many people have been sipping the Penn State kool-ade recently. And why shouldn't they? Penn State has rolled through it's first 5 games, dominating it's non-conference opponents including a thorough beat down of the spunky Beavers of Oregon State and beating an explosive Illinois squad by 2 touchdowns in their Big Ten opener despite numerous defensive mistakes.
Purdue, on the other hand, has struggled through it's first 4 games. Their record sits at .500 currently and the wins are none too impressive. The Boilermakers did smash Northern Colorado but barely beat Central Michigan in a game they could have easily lost. The losses to Oregon and Notre Dame only shed more doubt on the quality of this Purdue team.
All of that being said, this is a very dangerous game for the Nittany Lions for numerous reasons. The Lions havn't played a legitimate team on the road yet this year. Darryl Clark responded very well to pressure situations against Illinois, but how will he react in a similar situation without the support of the home crowd?
This game is also in a bad spot on the schedule for Penn State. It's sandwiched in between a nationally televised, emotionally charged win against Illinois and a huge match-up versus the Wisconsin Badgers in Madison. Hmmmm, a game on the road against a .500 team sandwiched in between 2 big games, looks like a trap game.
It doesn't help that the Boilermakers have a quarterback the likes of Curtis Painter, who single-handedly kept the game close last year in Happy Valley and just threw 400+ yards in a loss to Notre Dame. Add in an explosive running back like Kory Sheets and it could mean a large headache for a possibly overconfident Nittany Lion team.
Joe Paterno has been here before though. He knows how to keep his teams focused on the task at hand instead of overlooking an opponent. How else could the Lions look sharp in every one of their non-conference games despite the fact that most of the starters did not see the second half?
There's no doubt that this Purdue game is a dangerous game but this Penn State team is a dangerous team. Look for Evan Royster to pace the Lions offense on the ground, eventually allowing Darryl Clark to open it up with the play-action to his favorite target Jordan Norwood who will apparently be good to go on Saturday. Norwood injured his hamstring in practice last week before the Illinois game but it's not serious enough to keep him sidelined another week. Defensively, look for the front 7 to put pressure on Curtis Painter after being held back to contain Juice Williams last week. Linebacker Navarro Bowman continues to improve each week and is becoming a force to be reckoned with against the run and the pass.
In the end, Penn State will stay focused and win a solid game on the road and then look forward to the Badgers.
My prediction : Penn State 35 Purdue 17