IU Insider Blog: Can Defense stop Penn State?

With a rugged road schedule ahead IU can't afford to lose at home in Big Ten play. And its first opponent, Penn State today, is 16-0 all-time against the Hoosiers.

When you play Michigan State, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio State, all on the road, in Big Ten play, one point immediately becomes abundantly clear.

You had better win your home games.

This is especially true when you go 2-2 in the non-conference portion of the schedule like Indiana has done over the first four games of the season.

At 4-0 or 3-1, the future would look much brighter for Indiana today in terms of qualifying for an elusive bowl game.

But at 2-2 the margin of error is very slim. Could IU go on the road and beat one of those teams? Sure. Still, the reality is that Indiana will be a decided underdog in each of those four games.

So we're back to the original premise: You had better win your home games.

The first of the four, today's game against Penn State, could be the tallest mountain that IU has to climb, too. Yes, Illinois is much improved. And Minnesota has had some good games but I think Indiana matches up pretty well against the Golden Gophers. Purdue? Right now I think the Old Oaken Bucket has a real good chance of returning to Bloomington.

But the only game that matters is today's matchup with Penn State. The Nittany Lions are 3-1 and coming off a convincing 64-0 victory two weeks ago against Kent State. Like Indiana, Penn State had two weeks to prepare for this game as both schools had a bye in the schedule last weekend.

IU is a slight underdog playing at home against the Nittany Lions today. Oh, and did I mention that Indiana is 0-16 all-time in history against Penn State with all of those games having been played since 1993.

So is this the day that Indiana snaps that streak?

It's difficult to make predictions in Indiana's favor against any team with a potent offense. Penn State has ran the ball well and freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg has been impressive in his first four games of his career.

Now, the Indiana defense has shown up every other week. It played well against Indiana State, but sorry that was Indiana State. It got manhandled by the option attack of Navy, a game where the Hoosiers did not force their opponent to punt once the entire game. That same Navy team managed just seven points last week against Western Kentucky. Now granted its quarterback got hurt in the game but still that's not the kind of statistic you are looking for to feel good about a dismal performance like the one turned in by IU against Navy.

The Bowling Green game was better and the Falcons' defense was supposed to be pretty good. So that was encouraging again.

But then came Missouri where IU didn't play particularly well on either side of the ball in a 45-28 loss.

Which brings us to Penn State today.

I've made predictions every week. And each of the first four weeks I've picked Indiana to win. Today I can't do it. I think the score will be close because I think Nate Sudfeld and company can score some points but I'm just not convinced the Indiana defense can slow the Nittany Lions down enough to win.

My pick: Penn State 48, Indiana 38.

For the Hoosiers' sake and their bowl prospects, I hope I'm wrong. But again, until the IU defense begins to play more consistently it's nearly impossible to pick them to win against good offensive fooball teams.

Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/Foxsportshutch

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