Penn State and Indiana enter this weekend's Big Ten Leaders Division match-up in State College looking to get back in the win column after tough losses last week. Penn State's controversial loss at Nebraska still has many fans upset about officiating. Indiana dropped back to reality last week with a blowout home loss to Wisconsin.
Given the ugly performance last season in Bloomington many are expecting Penn State's offense to be able to put together a better performance this weekend but the Hoosiers have a history of keeping things closer than expected against Penn State every now and then. Could this game be a trap game that catches Penn State off guard coming off a tough loss and a week before hosting Wisconsin? Probably not with this team, but the Blue White Roundtable is here to take a look at the current state of the team.
Be sure to visit Black Shoe Diaries later for a full round-up from the Penn State blogosphere.
1. We have to start with officiating. One offensive holding called in Penn State's favor since the Northwestern game. The sideline encroachment penalty after the punt. The Matt Lehman touchdown that wasn't. What's going on here?
Obviously the world is out to get Penn State. What else could possibly be the case? I mean, besides the fact that officiating across the country is highly questionable these days with multiple camera angles and constantly running video that captures ever facet of the sport.
I have never been one to suggest there is a conspiracy theory, but I can see why so many Penn State fans would be upset lately. There have been some grossly blown calls and non-calls in the last month's worth of games, but of course there have been some plays that have gone in Penn State's favor if you want to be fair about it. It is just that the calls and non-calls against Penn State have had more of an impact on the end-results.
I don't think there is any excuse for the Matt Lehman touchdown-fumble. That was just blatantly missed for whatever reason. The sideline encroachment penalty was also a strange call to make considering the play had already been completed. Is there a conspiracy? I will leave that for others to determine. Hire Louis Freeh! Or not...
2. Penn State came out swinging and built a strong lead in the first half, but collapsed in the second, particularly on defense. What happened there? What accounts for the kinds of lapses that Penn State has exhibited in third quarters all year?
Penn State has been a well-prepared team heading in to each game this season, proven by the 83-6 score differential in the first quarter in Penn State's favor this season. As the case has been all season though, for whatever reason, Penn State is slow out of the halftime break, being outscored 80-55 in the third quarter (49-13 against ranked opponents). Are they exerting most of their energy at the start of games? Losing focus during the halftime? Is it the players wearing down or the coaches not making adjustments and keeping the players in the right frame of mind?
Whatever the reason may be, I would fully expect Bill O'Brien and his staff to take a closer look at the halftime routine moving forward and see if there is anything they can change moving forward, be it for the final two games or in preparing for the 2013 season.
3. Indiana's offense has put up big numbers against many teams this year. How will Penn State try to quiet the Hoosiers?
I do not want to over analyze what it will take to beat Indiana, something Penn State has done all 15 times the two have met since Penn State joined the Big Ten. Establish the run. Indiana gave up over 500 yards on the ground last week to Wisconsin. Sure, the Badgers have Montee Ball, which helps but this is a defense that has allowed at least 200 yards on the ground four times this season. They have lost each time. There is a reason teams rush more times against Indiana (48.9 rushing attempts per game) than any other team in the nation.
Running the football and keeping Indiana's offense off the field will keep sophomore quarterback Cameron Coffman from establishing his own rhythm. Coffman enters this weekend second in the Big Ten behind Matt McGloin in passing yards per game.
Indiana flirted with a nice happy story this season but had their dose of reality last week at home against Wisconsin. I expect more of the same this weekend, although given the series history I think a blowout win would be unwise to bank on. Indiana has a knack for keeping things looking closer than they probably really are or should be. Penn State struggled to pull out a victory last year in Bloomington, but given the new-look offense I think Penn State is able to jump out to an early lead and never see this game hang out there for the Hoosiers to have much of a chance.
Penn State 34, Indiana 23