Nov 17, 2012, 10:07 AM EDT
Anytime Penn State and Indiana get together, the culture clash is as clear as day.
Penn State is a football school and Indiana is a basketball school. Indiana is currently the top-ranked men’s basketball program in the country and Penn State will look to improve to 16-0 all-time against the Hoosiers in football this weekend. Penn State has owned the series bragging rights since starting the series up in 1993 when they joined the Big Ten.
While Penn State has taken firm control of the series, there have been many close calls and scares. Indiana just has a knack for giving Penn State the fits and has a tendency to scrap together some late scores as well, making some games appear closer in the box score than it may to the eyes. Will that be the case this weekend?
Penn State is coming off a physically demanding game at Nebraska, one that was marred by controversial officiating and saw Nebraska come from behind to send Penn State home with a tough loss. They will have to put that behind them in order to ensure they can end their regular season on a winning note. Fortunately, the numbers seem to favor Penn State this weekend.
The Hoosiers are the bottom of the Big Ten in scoring defense, allowing 32.2 points per game and a near-league worst 41 touchdowns (Illinois has allowed 42). These number were inflated a bit last week when Wisconsin racked up 62 points on Indiana, but the Hoosiers have allowed 30 points or more six times this season, and 40 points or more in four of those contests.
Indiana gives up a lot of yards on the ground, so expect Penn State to focus on the run early and often. Wisconsin gashed Indiana for 564 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns last week. Indiana has allowed 200 rushing yards or more five times this season.
Of course, Penn State has been more of a passing team under new head coach Bill O’Brien and are ranked ninth in the Big Ten in rushing. While running the football could shift the focus in the offensive game planning this week, don’t expect Penn State to stop throwing.
Quarterback Matt McGloin continues to rewrite Penn State’s record books, now 75 yards away from passing Tony Sacca for second on the school’s all-time career passing list. (He will get no higher than second place, trailing Zack Mills by 1,417 yards with just two games left in his career). McGloin is also two touchdown passes away from tying the school record, trailing Daryll Clark’s career record of 43. With one more 200-yard passing game, McGloin will also break a tie with Mills and Kerry Collins for the most career 200-yard passing games, with the next being his 17th. McGloin already owns the school mark for 300-yard passing games, with five.
The former walk-on has certainly left an interesting mark on Penn States football program, with his mouth often getting him in to some hot water. Such was the case this week, when his postgame comments about the officiating in Nebraska left Penn State to not make McGloin available to the media. Instead the media were offered third string quarterback Shane McGregor.
Penn State has lost their second leading receiver, Kyle Carter, to a season-ending injury, but Allen Robinson will still be a key target in the final two weeks. The sophomore currently leads the Big Ten in receiving with 786 yards and eight touchdowns on a Big Ten-leading 63 receptions. It has been a while since Allen Robinson has scored a touchdown though — the most recent was almost a month ago in a road win at Iowa. Robinson has been kept out of the end zone three straight games, two of which have been losses (Ohio State, Nebraska). Could this be the week he snaps that scoreless streak?
Robinson still has a chance to become just the third player in Penn State history to record at least ten touchdown catches in a single season since joining the Big Ten in 1993. Bobby Engram did it twice (1993 and 1995). The other name may cause some readers to cringe, but Joe Jurevicius was the last Nittany Lion to do it, nabbing 10 TD catches in 1997. Robinson’s next catch will also break a school record for most receptions in a single season, currently shared with O.J. McDuffie and Engram.
Will it be a record-setting day for Penn State? Regardless, a win will clinch a winning season for Penn State in a year some may not have expected to end that way. There are still plenty of challenges ahead for these Nittany Lions, but Indiana does not look like one of them.
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