Indiana, Penn St. trying to break out of tailspins
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) Indiana started this season by talking about a bowl bid.
Penn State's hopes came back when the NCAA lifted its bowl ban in early September.
Now to achieve those goals, one of these teams must break out of its midseason funk and jump start its season Saturday. It won't be easy.
''It's not just one issue, it's a combination of factors,'' Penn State coach James Franklin said. ''We've spent a lot of time this week on how can we do that, how can we create some explosive plays whether it's on offense or special teams.''
This season sure hasn't gone according to the script.
After starting 4-0, Penn State (4-4, 1-4 Big Ten) has endured with one disconcerting loss after another - three of which were decided by a combined total of 13 points including Ohio State's seven-point victory in double overtime two weeks ago. All those close calls have taken a toll on the Nittany Lions, especially quarterback Christian Hackenberg who has let his frustration show. Franklin even noted this week that's been a topic for discussion behind the scenes.
But things could be worse.
The Hoosiers (3-5, 0-4) have lost three straight, four of its last five and have shown no indication they're about to change course.
Over the past two games, Indiana has produced just 27 points and 35 yards passing.
What's wrong? Two of their top three quarterbacks transferred during the offseason, 2014 starter Nate Sudfeld was diagnosed with a separated shoulder and backup Chris Covington tore his ACL in an Oct. 11 loss at Iowa. Both are out for the rest of the season.
The injuries have turned Indiana's up-tempo offense into a one-dimensional attack at the worst possible time. Now Indiana needs three wins in its last four games to become bowl eligible, and coach Kevin Wilson is scrambling for answers.
''As we try to evolve and do what we can do, we've got to get the ball to our running backs,'' Wilson said. ''We've got to get the ball to Shane Wynn, got to get the down the field, and at the same time it doesn't need to be a new play for the left guard or the right tackle. Fortunately we have been here long enough that those kids know a lot of the concepts.''
Here are some other things to watch this weekend.
COLEMAN'S TEST: Indiana running back Tevin Coleman continues to lead the nation in rushing (162.5 yards per game). Though he's run for at least 100 yards in 10 consecutive games, it could take a monumental effort to extend the nation's longest active streak. Penn State leads the nation in yards rushing allowed (77.1) and yards per carry allowed (2.3).
STAT WATCH: Hackenberg leads the Big Ten in yards passing (254.8), and on Saturday, the sophomore is likely to reach another milestone. He needs seven yards to become the eighth players in school history to throw for 5,000 career yards. Kicker Sam Ficken, an Indiana native, needs eight points to pass former running back Lydell Mitchell (246 points) for No. 5 on the school's scoring list. And linebacker Mike Hull needs 15 tackles to crack Penn State's career top 10 in tackles.
THE STREAK: A year ago, the Hoosiers ended a 16-game losing streak against the Nittany Lions with a 44-24 victory. On Saturday, the Nittany Lions will try to restore order to this series by winning for the 17th time in 18 games.
HONOR ROLL: Indiana will recognize the first team in school history to win a bowl game, the 1979 Holiday Bowl champs. And at halftime, the Hoosiers will recognize the two newest football players to be inducted into the school's Hall of Fame, former Bears and Dolphins star Adewale Ogunleye and Ben Raimondi, who played on Bo McMillin's powerhouse teams in the mid-1940s.