On paper, things might not appear to be in IU's favor.
Penn State has won 10 in a row against Indiana, and Coach Joe Paterno's team is playing its best football of the season as of late. The Hoosiers, by contrast, are coming off their worst performance of the season, surrendering 52 points to Michigan State while managing only nine first downs in East Lansing.
While that might appear to be a recipe for disaster for Coach Bill Lynch's team, it could also prove helpful to the Hoosiers' cause. After all, the Nittany Lions might be tempted to look past Indiana to their match-up against No.1 Ohio State next weekend.
But as these two 5-2 teams prepare to square off, everyone in Happy Valley is saying all the right things.
"Indiana, they're not a sleeper team by any means," said Penn State cornerback Lydell Sargeant. "They are 5-2 and they are 2-2 in the Big Ten. So they still have a legitimate shot to win the Big Ten if their season goes well. So, we've just got to stay focused and know that they have the same goals as we do."
Paterno has also been giving Lynch's squad plenty of respect.
"I think Indiana does a lot of things very well," Paterno said. "I think you got to start with their quarterback (Kellen Lewis), who is a very gifted athlete. They got that great big wideout (James Hardy). So, yeah, I think it's going to be a challenge, but I think every game is a challenge for us.
"Indiana's got a lot of things going for them."
Penn State might be saying the right things, but it's hard to imagine it won't have a letdown in a game that's sandwiched between games against a pair of ranked foes in Wisconsin (whom Penn State whipped 38-7) and the top-ranked Buckeyes.
The question, though, is whether or not Indiana can take advantage. For that to happen, Indiana will need to do two things – do an about-face with its run defense from a week ago when it gave up 368 yards of Michigan State; and play turnover-free football on offense. If it can do those two things, Lynch's team has a chance.
It would also help if James Hardy would have a dominant game against a very good Penn State secondary. Hardy ranks third nationally with nine touchdown receptions, trailing only Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree (17) and New Mexico State's Chris Williams (11). But he's averaging a shade under 4.5 receptions per game, which doesn't even rank in the top 10 in the Big Ten.
HoosierNation.com Prediction: Penn State 30, Indiana 17
What's coming up:
On Monday – Five Numbers to Note
On Tuesday - Four Names to Know
On Wednesday – Three Big Concerns
On Thursday – Two Key Match-Ups
On Friday – One Bold Prediction
PENN STATE: One Day and Counting
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