PENN STATE: Three Days and Counting

What are some of the biggest individual match-ups in this weekend's meeting between No. 7 Penn State (9-1/5-1) and Indiana (3-7/1-5)? HoosierNation.com continues its day-by-day preview of this weekend's contest with "Three Key Match-Ups" to keep an eye on…

Indiana vs. the Injury Bug – No one on the IU coaching staff or team is going to say it publicly, but the best thing that could come out of this weekend's match-up with the Nittany Lions is for everyone to stay healthy.

The Hoosiers are 34-point underdogs against Penn State, but they have a very winnable game next weekend against Purdue. While the idea of a second-straight victory against the arch-rival Boilermakers wasn't supposed to be the pinnacle of the 2008 campaign, it would be a satisfying way to cap off an otherwise forgettable season.

For that to happen, Indiana needs to get healthy at a handful of positions before it heads to West Lafayette. Quarterbacks Ben Chappell and Kellen Lewis, offensive tackle Rodger Saffold, center Pete Saxon and running back Marcus Thigpen are among those who are nursing a variety of injuries who might play this weekend against Penn State. Indiana can ill-afford to have those players – or a handful of others – on the sidelines when they face Purdue next week.

IU LT Rodger Saffold vs. PSU DE Aaron Maybin - Indiana's left tackle will likely make his return to the field this weekend, and his assignment will be to stop one of the five best pass rushers in the nation. The 6'4", 236-pound Maybin ranks in a tie for fourth nationally with 11 sacks, and Saffold will likely be the man standing between him and one of IU's hobbled quarterbacks.

The good news for Indiana is that Saffold is unquestionably its most athletic offensive lineman, which makes him best equipped to slow down Maybin. The Nittany Lion sophomore is a speed rusher extraordinaire, someone who is already being mentioned as a potential first round NFL Draft pick when he decides to go pro. The bad news is that Saffold won't be 100 percent this weekend. The 6'5", 305-pound junior has been playing through a back problem all season, and he injured his knee three weeks ago against Northwestern. That kept him out of the Central Michigan and Wisconsin games, but he returned to practice Monday.

Maybin isn't the only pass rushing threat off a Penn State defense that ranks second in the Big Ten and 20th nationally with 2.7 sacks/game. But he's clearly the most dangerous, and IU's hopes of having time to throw this weekend depend on Saffold keeping Maybin out of the IU backfield.

IU DTs Greg Brown and Deonte Mack vs. PSU C A.Q. Shipley and Guards Rich Ohrmberger and Stefen Wisniewski - If Indiana is going to keep this game from getting out of control early, it's going to need to limit what the Nittany Lions are able to do on the ground. Penn State ranks 12th nationally with 221.7 yards rushing/game, two spots behind a Wisconsin team that piled up 441 yards on the ground against IU last weekend.

For that to happen, a lot of things need to happen, but first and foremost IU's defensive tackles need to keep from being dominated at the line of scrimmage by a very talented and athletic trio of interior offensive linemen. Penn State figures to rely on tailbacks Evan Royster and Stephfon Green as much as it can, and IU's challenge will be force the Lions to beat them through the air.

Penn State is more than capable of doing just that, but its quarterback Darryl Clark, has struggled as of late. He was only 9-of-23 for 86 yards in Saturday's 24-23 loss at Iowa, and in his last two games he's completed only 21-of-43 throws for 207 yards and zero touchdowns. IU's chances of staying close rely on slowing down the run and hoping Clark has a third straight tough afternoon.

What's coming up:
On Monday - Five Numbers to Note
On Tuesday - Four Names to Know
On Wednesday – Three Key Match-Ups
On Thursday – Two Big Concerns
On Friday – One Bold Prediction

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