Friday, March 6, 2015

Penn State vs. Indiana: 3 things to watch for

Three things to keep an eye on while watching Penn State play Indiana this afternoon.

Penn State vs. Indiana: 3 things to watch for

Penn State head coach Bill O´Brien. (AP Photo/Centre Daily Times, Nabil K. Mark)
Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien. (AP Photo/Centre Daily Times, Nabil K. Mark)

Christian Hackenberg’s first true away game

Syracuse doesn’t count, at a neutral site with mostly Penn State fans. Today, Hackenberg will enter a hostile environment for the first time, and he can’t let that sway him. He needs to facilitate a lot of points in what could pan out to be an offensive shootout. However, playing in Bloomington for your first away game is probably preferable to playing in most other Big Ten cities. Who knows? Hackenberg’s played well,  but maybe after five weeks, a change of scenery will do him some good. Sometimes it helps to step away from the fans who expect so much of you, just for one game. And he can't mind that Indiana's defense in among the worst in the conference.

 

Indiana could cause problems this year  

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This game may come down to John Butler’s defense. The Hoosiers have a solid quarterback in Nate Sudfeld, who has led Indiana’s offense to unfamiliar heights. This isn’t the cupcake of the Big Ten that Penn State is used to playing each season. The Hoosiers move fast, and strike deadly. They’re not a team that’s going to try and erode defenses for long possessions: Indiana hasn’t had a scoring drive that broke four minutes yet this season. The Nittany Lions’ defense would make a statement by shutting down Indiana’s scoring drives, potentially leading to a Penn State blowout. 

 

Mike Hull should be healthy (for real, this time)

A bye week will often make players feel better. The absence of Mike Hull for most of the nonconference schedule was negatively impactful. The Lions need him to support Glenn Carson with Nyeem Wartman still developing as a linebacker and the depth behind him spread pretty thin. Bill O’Brien seemed fully confident that Hull was 100 percent recovered heading into this game, so there shouldn’t be any limitations in Hull’s pursuit of the ball and his ability to bring down the ball-carrier. He’s the beating heart of a defense when healthy — someone who can force turnovers and change the flow of games with a single play. 

 

Prediction

Penn State 38 Indiana 27

About this blog
Joe Juliano has been a staff writer for The Inquirer for 20 years, covering college sports, golf and the Penn Relays.

Joining Joe this season will be John Stuetz, an intern for The Inquirer and senior at Penn State majoring in print journalism and marketing. This is John's third season covering the Penn State beat. He previously covered the Nittany Lions for the Daily Collegian, the university's student newspaper. A native of Glenside, Montgomery County, John graduated from Cheltenham High School.

For Joe, this will be his fifth season on the paper's Penn State beat. He previously covered the Nittany Lions for United Press International from 1976 to 1984.

Reach Joe at jjuliano@phillynews.com.

Joe Juliano Inquirer Staff Writer
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