No. 8 Penn State braces for challenge from Indiana
No. 8 Penn State isn’t taking anything for granted when it opens the season against an improved Indiana team on Saturday afternoon.
The Nittany Lions have won the past six meetings between the two schools, but the past two games were decided by seven points or fewer.
“It’s the best Indiana football team that we have played by far,” Penn State coach James Franklin said. “Indiana has played a bunch of games, and it played a lot of people really tough. And you’d better be ready to play. You’d better have all your T’s crossed and your I’s dotted and you’d better have the right mentality when you when you play Indiana.”
Penn State also announced this week it will be without junior running back Journey Brown, the team’s leading rusher in 2019 who is out indefinitely with an undisclosed medical issue. The Nittany Lions also will be without preseason All-America linebacker Micah Parsons, who opted out this season due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic and has declared early for the NFL draft.
Even without Brown and Parsons, Penn State brings back plenty of talent, led by returning quarterback Sean Clifford, preseason All-America tight end Pat Freiermuth and safety Lamont Wade. Sophomore Noah Cain, who rushed for 443 yards and eight TDs last season, will step in for Brown as Penn State’s starting running back.
Indiana is seeking its first win against a ranked opponent under fourth-year coach Tom Allen. The Hoosiers are coming off an 8-5 season in 2019, their best since 1993, but went 0-4 against ranked teams last year, losing the four games by an average margin of 20.5 points. Indiana returns 19 starters from last year’s squad, nine on offense, eight on defense and two on special teams.
The Hoosiers last beat a top-10 opponent on Oct. 10, 1987, when they upset No. 9 Ohio State 31-10.
“Playing a team like Penn State gives us that opportunity,” Allen said. “We talk about what’s next for our program, it’s winning these games. Obviously being close is no longer acceptable or the goal or the objective whatsoever. It’s to find a way to finish and win these games.”
Indiana sophomore quarterback Michael Penix Jr. will be making his first career start against Penn State. Penix added 15 pounds of muscle in the offseason in an effort to stay more durable during the course of the season after appearing in six of 13 games last season. In those contests, Penix showed flashes of All-Big Ten potential, completing 110 of 160 passes for 1,394 yards with 10 TDs passing and two more TDs rushing.
“He’s played some big games for us for sure,” Allen said. “Not as many as he will before it’s all said and done, but he has a natural poise to him that is extremely evident when you put him in these environments, and it never seems to be too big for him so I suspect he’ll rise up and play at a high level on Saturday.”
–Field Level Media