It's Senior Day at Beaver Stadium - Indiana is already a favorite choice among conference schools as the Homecoming opponent – it was the pick of both Michigan and Northwestern this year. Those road trips resulted in narrow losses, and now Indiana must find a way to beat No. 19 Penn State on Senior Day at Beaver Stadium.
Eighteen Penn State seniors will play their final games at Beaver Stadium, including four players that have earned All-Big Ten honors during their careers – quarterback Daryll Clark, linebacker Sean Lee, defensive tackle Jared Odrick and punter Jeremy Boone. It's a group of players that have helped lead the Nittany Lions back to national prominence in the last four years, they certainly don't want to suffer a loss on their home field in their finale.
As if Penn State's stingy defense (ranked No. 3 nationally) and opportunistic offense wasn't enough for Indiana to be concerned about this weekend, the Senior Day tag will provide the Lions with a little extra motivation as they look to bounce back from a 24-7 loss at home to Ohio State a week ago. Penn State has won 18 of its last 19 Senior Day games, with the lone setback coming in 1999 to Michigan. Indiana clearly has its work cut out for it if it envisions handing the Lions only their second Senior Day loss since 1990.
Does Indiana's offensive line have any chance of keeping Ben Chappell from getting battered and bruised? – The good news for Indiana's offensive line is that Penn State doesn't have a single dominant pass rusher like it's had in years past with the likes of Aaron Maybin, Maurice Evans and Tamba Ali. The bad news is that despite not having a player among the Big Ten's top five in sacks, the Lions still lead the conference with 32 sacks.
It would probably be easier for Indiana to scheme to keep one dominant pass rusher from consistently getting in the backfield, but Penn State's can come from anyone and anywhere. Sixteen different Penn State players have had a hand in at least one sack this season, including seven different defensive linemen. The two players that pose the greatest threat are senior defensive tackle Jared Odrick (six sacks, 10 tackles for loss) and sophomore defensive end Jack Crawford (5 ½ sacks, 13 ½ tackles for loss), but each member of the front four can cause problems. On top of that, starting linebackers Josh Hull, Sean Lee and Navorro Bowman have combined for five sacks, so they'll also generate some pressure at times.
While Penn State's defense did yield a season-high 228 rushing yards last weekend to Ohio State, it's highly unlikely that Indiana will enjoy that type of success on the ground. Darius Willis continues to nurse a variety of nagging injuries, and IU has been held under 100 yards rushing in four out of its last six games. That means Ben Chappell is going to need to have a big day throwing the ball if Indiana is going to have success offensively. Chappell has plenty of weapons to throw to, but it's going to be up to the offensive line to give him to time to get them the ball. Chappell has taken some big hits this season and has still managed to play every meaningful snap, but that streak could be in jeopardy if the Hoosier line is unable to give him the protection he's going to need all afternoon long.
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
PENN STATE: Two Days and Counting
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