PENN STATE: Three Days and Counting

Bloomington - Hoosier Nation continues its day-by-day preview of this weekend's Big Ten football game between Indiana (4-6/1-5) and Penn State (8-2/4-2). Today, we look at three of the game's key match-ups...

IU WRs Tandon Doss and Damarlo Belcher vs. PSU Zone Coverage - Indiana will try to run against Penn State, but they'll likely find the yards hard to come by on the ground. Defensive tackle Jared Odrick will clog things in the middle, and outside linebackers Sean Lee and Navorro Bowman will make it difficult for Darius Willis and Bryan Payton to bounce things to the outside. That means Indiana is going to need to throw the ball successfully if it's going to put points on the board. That's easier said than done against a Penn State defense that ranks ninth nationally in passing yards/game allowed (166.1) and has surrendered 200 yards in a game only three times this fall. The Nittany Lions' opponents are completely only 52.1 percent of their throws, and they've given up only five touchdowns through the air – the longest being a 62-yard from OSU's Terrelle Pryor to DeVier Posey last week. It might seem like a tall order, but IU's wide receivers have shown big-play abilities against the Big Ten's best secondaries. If Indiana is going to have a chance against Penn State it's going to need its playmakers to make big plays. With Darius Willis hurting, that means it's up to Doss and Belcher to do just that.

IU MLB Matt Mayberry vs. PSU TB Evan Royster - It's Football 101, but defensively Indiana has to avoid being thrashed by the Penn State running attack. A week ago, the Big Ten's leading rusher John Clay ran for 134 yards against IU in the opening half, and then back-up Montee Ball went for 100 of his own in the second half in Wisconsin's 31-28 win. Now, the Hoosiers must find a way to do a better job of limiting the league's second-leading rusher in Royster. Royster has both good size (6'1", 213) and home run abilities, and Indiana can't afford to allow him to control the game the way Wisconsin's tailbacks did. As good as Penn State quarterback Daryll Clark can be, he's also proven to be a mistake-prone at times when he's forced to throw. Indiana's depleted secondary is probably going to be to Clark's liking, but the Hoosiers' chances are a lot better if they can force the Lions' senior quarterback to try to beat them.

IU O-Linemen Will Matte, Justin Pagan and Pete Saxon vs. PSU DTs Jared Odrick and Ollie Ogbu – Penn State has turned out some tremendous pass rushing defensive ends over the years, including 2008 first-team All-American and first-round NFL draft pick Aaron Maybin. But this year's Lion defense doesn't have that dominant pass rusher off the edge. The Lions still lead the conference with 32 sacks, but no player has more than six (Maybin had 12 in '08). The team leader in sacks is Odrick, a 6'5", 305-pound defensive tackle that creates havoc despite being double teamed more often than not. When teams devote too much attention to Odrick, Ogbu (seven tackles for loss, two sacks, two forced fumbles) can be the beneficiary. If Indiana is goin to have success offensively against Penn State it's going to need to be able to throw the ball, and Ben Chappell can't do that if he consistently has Odrick and Ogbu in his face. IU's junior quarterback would probably find it easier to deal with a rusher off the edge where he could step up in the pocket and still deliver the throw. But if Odrick and Ogbu are consistently generating pressure, an immobile quarterback like Chappell will find it very difficult to deliver the ball to Doss, Belcher and Terrance Turner.

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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