The no. 9 Penn State Nittany Lions will look to bounce back from their first loss of the season this weekend when they invite the Indiana Hoosiers to Happy Valley. Game time is set for noon EST on Saturday, November 16 at Beaver Stadium in University Park, Pennsylvania. The game will be available to a national audience on ABC.
Current betting odds list the Nittany Lions as 14.5-point favorites at home. The over/under for the game is set at 54.5 points. Click here to check out all of this week’s college football betting odds.
As mentioned, the Nittany Lions suffered their first loss of the season last week, falling on the road to Minnesota in a battle of unbeaten teams. Naturally, Penn State’s College Football Playoff hopes took a significant hit. But the Nittany Lions aren’t finished yet. If they can win the rest of their games, including a showdown with Ohio State next week, Penn State will play in the Big Ten Championship Game. As a 1-loss Big Ten champion, the Nittany Lions would have a compelling case for a top-4 spot. However, there is no more margin for error. With a loss to Indiana this week, Penn State’s conference title and CFP hopes would be gone.
Meanwhile, the Hoosiers have been one of the surprise teams in the Big Ten this season. Indiana is riding a four-game winning streak that already has them bowl eligible at 7-2. The caveat, of course, is that all seven of their wins have come against teams that probably won’t go to a bowl game (although one or two could sneak in). When the Hoosiers were tested by Ohio State earlier in the season, they lost by 41 points at home. On the other hand, Indiana is playing with house money at this point in the season. They know they’re going to a bowl game no matter what, so the pressure is off.
Of course, history is on Penn State’s side. In 22 all-time meetings between these two schools, the Hoosiers have exactly one win, which came in 2013. James Franklin has set things right, beating Indiana in all five seasons as Penn State head coach. However, the Hoosiers did give the Nittany Lions a run for their money last year, only losing 33-28 in Bloomington.
To their credit, Indiana has put together a great season. But I’m still not sure how they compare up against the upper-echelon teams in the Big Ten. Despite last week’s loss, my opinion on the Nittany Lions hasn’t changed. I still think they’re a top-10 caliber team. Plus, coming off a loss, they’ll have some frustration to release. That should help the Nittany Lions take care of business against Indiana and cover the 14.5-point spread.
One concern for Indiana in this game is that starting quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has been ruled out for the rest of the season due to injury. The good news is that backup Peyton Ramsey has plenty of game experience. However, there is a vast difference in their mobility. Penix was sacked once this year and Ramsey has taken 11 sacks despite the two being nearly equal in passing attempts. That’s something that could show up against an elite PSU defense that’s allowing just 12 points per game on the season.
The Hoosiers will also have to find a way to attack one of the best defenses in the country at defending the run. Even Minnesota’s potent rushing attack was held in check for large periods of last week’s game against the Nittany Lions. Indiana running back Stevie Scott is a bonafide workhorse who’s averaging five yards per carry. But he’s been contained by some of the better defensive teams the Hoosiers have faced this season. Indiana can’t bank on Scott being able to carry them against the PSU defense, which will shift a lot of the pressure onto Ramsey’s shoulders. Unfortunately for Indiana, that isn’t always a winning formula for the Hoosiers.
On the other side of the ball, I have some concerns about Indiana’s defense. Overall, the Hoosiers have been solid on that side of the ball. But while they’ve had their way against the weakest teams on their schedule like Rutgers and Northwestern, average offensive teams have had success against them. Michigan State’s pedestrian offense scored over 30 points against Indiana. Nebraska and Maryland also had productive games against the Indiana defense. That concerns me against a Penn State offense capable of creating explosive plays both on the ground and through the air.
Admittedly, the 14.5-point spread makes this game a little tricky because it’ll force the Nittany Lions to win by more than two touchdowns to cover. Indiana is also a team with plenty of good qualities; otherwise, they wouldn’t be 7-2. This could also be a trap game for Penn State, who could be looking ahead toward next week’s game against Ohio State. However, I think last week’s loss will help the Nittany Lions focus on beating the Hoosiers, allowing them to win comfortably and ultimately cover the spread.