Penn State-Indiana Prediction: Does The Line Seem High?

Penn State is a 12-point favorite over Indiana, which has won seven of its last 10 road games.
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Penn State is 11-0 at home against Indiana, which arrives at Beaver Stadium for another theme night Saturday.

The Nittany Lions will host a 'Stripe Out,' which doesn't have the same pop as a White Out but looks sharp nonetheless. Watch for White Out No. 2 when Michigan visits in November.

In the meantime, fans can rage all they want about revenge, but the Lions simply want to make sure that Indiana (which is 7-3 in its last 10 road games) doesn't have a puncher's chance in the fourth quarter.

So, yeah, maybe a little revenge.

No. 4 Penn State (4-0) vs. Indiana (2-2)

  • When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
  • Where: Beaver Stadium
  • TV: ABC
  • Streaming: fuboTV
  • Betting Line: Penn State is a 12.5-point favorite, per SI SportsBook
  • Series History: Penn State leads 22-2
  • Last Meeting: Indiana 36-35 (OT) in 2020
  • Streaks: Penn State has won eight straight games and is 11-0 at home vs. Indiana

What's Up With the Lack of Sacks?

At first glance, Penn State's defense appears to be slacking in pressuring quarterbacks. The Lions rank last in the Big Ten in sacks (6) after being one of the most prolific sack-producers under Franklin. Penn State led the conference twice (2015 and 2018) in sacks and generated 40 or more for five consecutive seasons from 2015-19.

The team has made a big deal of ranking second nationally to Clemson in sacks per game (3.1) over the past seven years. This year, Penn State isn't averaging even half that. But does it matter? Defensive coordinator Brent Pry said successful quarterback pressure involves more than sacks.

"I don’t look at sack numbers necessarily," Pry said. "I’m not saying they’re not important. I look at, when we have one-on-one [matchups], how many of those are we winning. And how timely are we winning them? It doesn’t always equate to a sack. To me, a win isn’t necessarily a sack, it’s quarterback pressure. You’ve got to make him throw the ball, he’s got to feel you, get your hips at him, get your hands in his face. Those things are just as valuable."

According to Sports Info Solutions, Penn State ranks in the top half of the Big Ten in quarterback hurries (4th), pressures (6th) and hits (7th), meaning its pass-rushers are being disruptive. Defensive end Arnold Ebiketie is among the Big Ten's top-ranked players in each of those metrics.

Pressure played a key role against Wisconsin and Auburn and will be important against Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr. He's been sacked seven times this year and, despite being agile against the rush, is susceptible to making mistakes under duress. Ebiketie and fellow ends Jesse Luketa and Nick Tarburton need to make Penix uncomfortable and unable to see his skilled receivers.

Franklin announced this week that defensive tackle Hakeem Beamon, considered a likely starter during the preseason, won't be available in 2021. But Franklin clearly has been prepared for that, considering how much playing time Dvon Ellies has seen inside. Though the defensive line's depth has been tested, the group has acquitted itself well thus far.

Penn State Players to Watch

Receiver Parker Washington: After a huge game (5 catches, 148 yards) vs. Villanova, Washington likely will draw more attention from Indiana. He's worth the extra look and could be the turning point for Penn State's offense.

Cornerback Joey Porter Jr.: He'll be busy with Indiana's Ty Fryfogle, who leads the team with 21 receptions. But Porter Jr. has allowed just 11 receptions on 20 attempts, according to Sports Info Solutions, and is becoming one of the Big Ten's better cover corners.

Center Mike Miranda: Indiana defensive tackles Westin Kramer (290 pounds) and Demarcus Elliott (307) are just part of a sturdy front seven that Penn State will confront. Miranda has to stand up to that pressure and lead a strong inside running game.

Indiana Players to Watch

Linebacker Micah McFadden: He might be the best player on the field Saturday. McFadden is a dynamic linebacker whose presence cannot be overestimated. Indiana led Cincinnati 14-0 when McFadden was ejected for targeting in the first half. Cincinnati won 38-24.

Tight end Peyton Hendershot: Indiana's second-leading receiver (16 catches) is 6-4, 254 pounds and a difficult target to cover. Watch for a matchup with Penn State LB Curtis Jacobs.

Running back Stephen Carr: The USC transfer has two 100-yard games, making him a valuable running companion to Penix.

Five Things You Should Know

1. Penn State is ranked No. 4 in the AP Top 25, its highest ranking since October 2017.

2. Quarterback Sean Clifford went 12-for-12 in passes to Dotson and Washington against Villanova last week.

3. Penn State's first-team defense has not allowed a passing touchdown this season. The Lions went 147 passing attempts before giving up a passing TD to Villanova in the fourth quarter.

4. Another Penn State letterman will be in the booth. Former quarterback Todd Blackledge is the ABC analyst, following Matt Millen on the Big Ten Network broadcast last week.

5. Penn State is 7-1 against the spread in its last eight games, according to Oddsshark.

Prediction

Penn State has been far more reliable than Indiana this season, but the Hoosiers' record is a bit deceiving. Iowa stunned Indiana with big defensive plays, and Cincinnati took advantage of McFadden's ejection. Both are top-10- teams as well. But the wins over Idaho and Western Kentucky don't really strike fear, either.

Indiana misses receiver Whop Philyor, lost a key offensive/return threat in DJ Matthews Jr. to injury and fields a defense vulnerable to the pass. That the Lions haven't been able to run effectively this season might not matter much Saturday night. As long as Clifford retains his groove and the defense contains Penix, Penn State will be comfortably 5-0 heading to Iowa.

Penn State 34-17

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