This game will feature a duel between two talented true freshmen quarterbacks. Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg and Indiana’s Nate Sudfeld have nearly identical stat lines. Sudfeld has completed two more passes. Hackenberg has attempted three more. Sudfeld has thrown one more interception but also six more touchdowns. It’s a push.
Indiana sophomore Tevin Coleman is averaging 14 carries per game while 230-pound senior Stephen Houston adds another weapon. Both backs are averaging more than six yards per carry and both run patterns out of the backfield and factor into the passing game. Penn State utilizes a three-headed attack in phases, making sure Zach Zwinak, Bill Belton and Akeel Lynch all stay fresh throughout the game. All three have excelled in pass protection. Second string quarterback Tre Roberson adds a dimension to the Hoosier’s run game. Advantage: Penn State
Shane Wynn is a playmaker for Indiana and leads the team with almost 20 yards per catch. Kofi Hughes and Cody Latimer are big, physical targets who set blocks well for Wynn and running backs in the screen game. All three have at least 14 catches. Penn State’s Allen Robinson may be the best wideout in the Big Ten but Penn State needs another receiver to step up and take some of the pressure off his shoulders. Advan tage: Indiana
Indiana senior Ted Bolser is a big target at 6-foot-6, 252 pounds but he’s gone cold lately. After reeling in 11 catches for 134 yards and two touchdowns in the first two weeks of the season, Bolser’s been held to just three catches for 22 yards in two games since. Anthony Corsarso is the only other tight end who’s been involved in the receiving game and he has just one catch for zero yards. Penn State has yet to get a touchdown from a tight end through four games but should have better odds as the trio of Kyle Carter, Jesse James and Adam Breneman will all be worked into the game plan. Advantage: Penn State
Both units have improved as the season has unfolded for each team. Center Ty Howle and tackles Adam Gress and Garry Gilliam have fit in nicely with returning starters Donovan Smith (left tackle), Miles Dieffenbach (left guard) and John Urschel (right guard) for Penn State. While Smith and Dieffenbach are the only two players who aren’t seniors, both are experienced having started all of last season. Indiana’s offensive linemen have been good, giving up only four sacks so far on the season. They are an inexperienced group in Big Ten play, however and will face their toughest test yet. Center Collin Rahrig is the lone upperclassman for the Hoosiers and he was a former walk-on who was primarily a guard until the end of last season. Left guard Jake Reed was a tight end last season while right guard David Kaminski and right tackle Ralston Evans combined for just one appearance last season. Advantage: Penn State
Indiana has been able to ratchet up its pass rush against inferior offensive lines as Adarius Rayner and Nick Mangieri have combined for half of the Hoosiers’ 10 sacks. But the Hoosiers defensive front hasn’t been able to contain opposing running backs and are usually chasing them from behind rather than meeting them in holes. Only Bobby Richardson and Mangieri have double-digit tackle totals among Indiana defensive linemen. On the other side, DaQuan Jones is a handful up front for Penn State and leads the defensive linemen with 25 tackles with 51/2 coming for losses. Meanwhile, Deion Barnes picked up the pace against Kent State with his first sack of the season and has made a vow to play more aggressively. Advantage: Penn State
Getting a healthy Mike Hull back will be huge for Penn State, as his presence should stabilize the rotation a little better. Glenn Carson has been phenomenal so far and has shown improvements in his coverage game. Nyeem Wartman has yet to have a breakout game. Stephen Obeng-Agyapong’s coverage skills will be crucial against Indiana’s passing attack. Indiana’s starting three — T.J. Simmons, David Cooper and Forisse Hardin — haven’t been able to help much agianst opposing run games. Hardin and Simmons are both true freshmen and Hardin moves around and can play safety. Cooper is Indiana’s leading tackler with 33. Advantage: Penn State
Indiana will field three upperclassmen, with corner Michael Hunter being the lone sophomore in the group. While Penn State corners Jordan Lucas and Trevor Williams are only making their fifth starts in the secondary, they have played well with the exception of the UCF game. They’ll be tested again by Indiana’s short passes and screens and will need safeties Malcolm Willis and Adrian Amos to add a physical edge against a big set of Indiana receivers. Ryan Keiser is not available with a hand injury and Jesse Della Valle could see more time in a reserve role. Statistically, both secondaries are Top 5 units in the conference. This is a push.
Wynn is a dangerous return man for the Hoosiers who average 22 yards per punt return, double Penn State’s total, and nearly 19 yards per kickoff return, a category Penn State has a slight edge in. The Hoosiers have only attempted one field goal, however. Penn State’s kicking situation is the best it’s been in years. Sam Ficken continues to nail kick after kick. Indiana has the more consistent punting game, but the Hoosiers have punted just 14 times so far. This likely won’t be a field position game, however. Advantage: Penn State.
Kevin Wilson hasn’t had much luck in the Big Ten in just over two seasons of work, and his team comes into this game as one of the most penalized squads in the conference. Indiana is averaging more than 56 penalty yards per game. Meanwhile, Penn State is still looking for a fast start and could benefit from a heavy dose of running the ball early in this one. Memorial Stadium hasn’t provided much of an advantage for the Hoosiers, who have dropped two games at home already. Advantage: Penn State