Download the full FOS Blitz gameday guide at the link below, or simply read Nirav and Mark's game preview below.
ND: What the Buckeyes giveth in the first half, they tooketh away in the second half. The Lions put together one of the best halves of football in a couple of years but fell apart in the final half. They will now face the Hoosiers who got absolutely pummeled by the Badgers. It'll be interesting to see how both teams respond this week at a neutral field site.
MH: The Hoosiers were victims to a Badger beatdown. Did Brett Bielema run up the score on Lynch's squad? Who knows but the score got ugly quick and the Lions can pick up on some clues from watching the game film. I think getting back on the road is going to be a good thing for the Lions to help them focus on the task at hand – ensure a winning record this year.
Who: Penn State at Indiana
When: November 20, 2010
Where: FedEx Field in Washington, D.C.
Series: Penn State leads 13-0
TV: Big Ten Network
Line: Penn State favored by 10
Other Big Games This Weekend:
ND: After the Badgers rolled up 83 points on Indiana's defense, they get to face a defense that is actually worse in Michigan. But, as the Lions know full well, the Wolverines are capable of putting up some serious points as well. The Badgers are the only decent team that Rich Rodriguez has beaten in the Big Ten so we'll see if he can pull another upset. I just don't see it happening. The Badgers running attack is absolutely amazing and they didn't even have Clay on the field last week. They will run right over the Wolverines in this one.
MH: Everyone pretty much wrote off the Hokies after their loss to James Madison, they can lock up a spot in the ACC championship with a win over the Canes this weekend. The game is in Miami but I like the Hokies going on the road and keeping their record unblemished in the ACC.
ND: Last week, the Cal Bears almost pulled an upset over the Oregon Ducks thanks to a defense that was able to stand tough against that video game offense. This week, they will take their top defense up against Andrew Luck's Stanford Cardinal. The question will be if Jeff Tedford can get enough out of his offense to give his defense some relief. But, I like the Bears winning this game.
MH: That's a good pick. A big surprise to me is how the Hawkeyes have dropped a couple of games this year considering that they had a ton of kids returning and they have so much talent on defense. Call me crazy but after 2008, I am convinced that winning in Kinnick Stadium in a physical ball game is near impossible. I like the Hawkeyes taking it to the Buckeyes in a low-scoring game.
ND: Mama always said there would be days like last Saturday and now McGloin needs to move on. Ironically, the coaches feel that throwing the ball to the sidelines is a lower risk pass but defenses have started to catch up on that the Lions don't like to throw over the middle once they have a lead and they are starting to jump routes and the safeties are migrating that way. The Lions have to use the middle of the field more effectively. Though there is inexperience at the TE position, I would like to see Haplea used more in the offense or they need to use Brackett more consistently through the game. Forcing the safeties and the linebackers to watch the middle of the field is critical to opening up passing lanes to Brown and Moye. The Hoosiers are very porous on pass defense so McGloin should be able to make some plays through the air only if the routes utilize the entire field. Mitchell Evans is an excellent safety for the Hoosiers. He is big, strong and has great instincts for the ball. He's picked off a bunch of passes this year and seems to always be around the football. And that's even more reason to utilize the entire field.
After the way that the Badgers ran the ball all over the Hoosiers, I have to believe that the Lions are going to be pounding the ball very early in this game. The Hoosiers have really struggled against the run this year as well. The defense has been collapsing so hard against the run that once the back gets beyond 3 yards past the line of scrimmage, a massive hole has been opening up. The offensive line should have some success against the Hoosier defense and should be able to push bodies around pretty regularly. What we'll have to watch is whether Silas Redd gets any looks in this game. Redd was cited with a minor infraction this week so we'll see if he ends up spending this game in Joe's doghouse versus spending time in the game. Regardless, Royster will be ready to carry the ball 20+ times.
I see the Lions running the ball a ton in this game until the Hoosiers show that they can actually stop the run. If they are able to stop the run, I think McGloin should be able to pick apart a pass defense that is one of the worst in the nation.
MH: Nirav, I also thought that the play calling turned very conservative in the 2nd half but you also have to give credit to the other guy. The Buckeyes played pass coverage much better and, in particular, completely shut down the Lions on 3rd down. In fact, the Lions only had the ball for about 11 minutes in the 2nd half. That's a disparity that the Lions' offense just isn't meant to overcome.
Against the Hoosiers, McGloin should get plenty of time in the pocket to go through his progressions. The Hoosiers have really struggled to get pressure on the QB this year and that's exactly the type of defense that McGloin needs to face after what happened in the 4th quarter. I'd like to see the Lions use their players in smarter situations. Devon Smith is not the guy that should be slanting off of the line or running go patterns. He's just too small. But, the Lions should get him the ball right after the snap so that he can use some of his speed. With Redd's status unknown, Smith may be a guy to use the backfield to run the ball on read options. The corners for the Hoosiers may not have played great this year but they are big and physical. This is a matchup that favors guys like Brown who have the speed and size to fight through jams at the line of scrimmage.
The Lions struggles in the 2nd half can be pinned on the inability to move the football on first day. Either a running play got stuffed or a pass went incomplete. The Lions need to move the ball positively on first day to get into a position where 3rd down isn't so daunting. This is where smart playcalling really comes into the picture. When the Lions are able to mix things up between run and pass on 1st down or make extremely high percentage throws on 1st down, that's when the offense clearly gets some momentum and is able to move the ball down the field. Royster is a big part of this. He showed a great burst in the first half that seemed to fizzle in the second half. I'm also hoping that the Lions try to use him more in passing downs rather than just screen passes. Last year, when he went in motion and got into the slot, it created some really nice mismatches and opened up some plays over the middle because either the safety or the LBer had to stay with Royster.
The Lions just need to take what the defense gives them and stick to what's working rather than trying to get fancy. That's what Ohio State and Wisconsin did last week. Neither Indiana nor Penn State could stop the run so they didn't stop running and both came away with a win.
ND: Lost in the offense's issues to move the football in the second half is how terrible the Lions were in run defense. Pryor only attempted 13 passes and completed 8 of them for 139 yards. Of those 139 yards, 107 came on two pass plays. And, the Buckeyes only attempt 4 passes in the entire second half. The reason for the incredibly low passing attempts was that the Lions were getting gashed on the run. The Lions gave up 314 on the ground and yielded an astounding 7.3 yard per carry. I realize that the defense has been marred by injuries but giving up 7 yards per carry to a team that was clearly running on every down is baffling. Fortunately, here come the Hoosiers with the worst rushing attack in the conference and one of the worst in the nation. Trea Burgess leads the rushing game for the Hoosiers. He's a 5th senior and he's a pretty good back. They put him either in the shotgun or in a pistol formation to give him some time to read the running lanes. The problem is that the offensive line has really struggled this year for the Hoosiers. The reality is that there are no running lanes and Burgess has had to bounce most of his runs to the outside in order to have any room to run. Sometimes that works and sometimes it gets stuffed for a loss. This is where the PSU LBers have to come to play. Mauti suffered an elbow injury last week and I think the coaches are going to hold him out of this game in order to ensure he heals for the Michigan State game. That will mean that Gbadyu and Stupar will have to attack more against the run. Gbadyu has been a non-factor this year and has Hodges and Fortt chomping at his heals. Though he has the speed, he doesn't have the instincts to diagnose the play and attack the line of scrimmage. Look for the Lions to use the normal rotations at LBer until they find a unit that is clicking in this game.
Ben Chappell left last week's game with an apparent hip injury. All indications point to his return this week. If he can't go, Edwin Wright-Baker will be called upon. The normal backup is Dusty Kiel but he busted up his thumb last week and won't be available. Chappell is a tall, strong armed QB and he has some really outstanding WRs that he gets the ball to. Damarlo Belcher is having a terrific year and has been using his height to his advantage all season long. He's 6'5" and he loves the jump balls along the sidelines. I think the Lions will struggle a bit with his size so it'll be interesting to see if they have a safety that always plays over top on his side of the ball just to ensure that he doesn't burn them.
Chappell hasn't been sacked much this year and the Hoosiers are one of the best teams in sacks allowed. But, that's not really a product of the offensive line. It has more to do with Chappell's ability to get rid of the football and the fact that he's rarely under center and plays in either the shotgun or the pistol. The Hoosiers have struggled with teams that have a good pass rush right up the middle of the line. This is the game where Still and Ogbu can really make an impact on the game. The Lions need to disrupt Chappell's rhythm and get him moving out of the pocket. He's not really mobile and with a banged up hip, the more that they can get him running, the better.
The Hoosiers do have a very good passing offense but I'm expecting the Hoosiers to test the Lions on the ground to see if even their mediocre rushing attack can produce enough results to take the pressure off of Chappell.
MH: Just as the Lions got Crawford back into the fold, Sean Stanley has had another off-the-field incident. I'll be surprised if Stanley makes the trip to D.C. let alone even get close enough to sniff the field. So, the defensive line depth continues to be an issue. I definitely think that the Hoosiers are going to run the ball to test the Lions. The LBs have not been able to make plays behind the scrimmage in recent weeks and they really were exposed last week against the Buckeyes. Colasanti is 2nd in the conference total tackles but with Mauti out, the defense is going to need him to attack the line of scrimmage more and also contribute to that pressure coming up the middle of the line on blitzes.
Chappell is an excellent QB and if he had any semblance of a running game, I think we would be talking about Chappell as leading one of the better offenses in the conference. Belcher is the guy that can stretch the field while Turner is the guy that is very dangerous once he catches the football. The Lions have had to move guys around at safety and this game is going to be a major test for them. Indiana is going to be throwing the ball all over the field and the Lions have to stay in their zones and do an excellent job of tackling.
Even the Hoosiers were beatdown by the Badgers, they were right in the game against Iowa, Northwestern and Michigan. So, this is a team that can compete with the better teams in the conference and if the Lions think that they can walk onto FedEx Field and extend the winning streak over IU to 14, they are gravely mistaken. Chappell is an excellent QB and he is going to make the Lions work for this win.
ND: All that was good at the beginning of the season in the return game seems to have vanished. Chaz Powell was fantastic in kick returns and he's sputtered as of late. And, the punt and kick coverage has been far from impressive. Tandon Doss returns both punts and kicks for the Hoosiers and he was able to chew up some decent yards in the many opportunities that he got against the Badgers. The Lions need to come out focused in their coverage assignments and try to minimize Doss' yards.
MH: The Hoosiers have not been good punting the ball this year. Chris Hagerup is averaging 39.7 yards per return but the Hoosiers are 98th in the country in net punting with an average of 33.77 yards. The Lions, on the other hand, have been getting some nice consistency out of Fera. His leg strength is going to be a real asset next year now that he's really getting the hang of things. But, his ability to pin the ball in the 20 is what will put him in the elite category, which I think he is very capable of.
Matchup to Kick Back and Enjoy:
ND: Mark, Penn State's secondary better be on alert because Chappell will be firing the ball all over the field. The corners will be able to do their job but the play of the safeties have left a lot to be desired. I think the matchup of the Hoosier gunslinger against the Penn State secondary will be interesting to watch.
MH: After the debacle in Madison, I'm going to be interested to see how the Hoosier defense redeems itself against the run. They are not a good defense but they will either fold like a tent or they will show some resilience against a very average Lions running attack.
Keys to the Game:
ND: The Lions have to start causing some turnovers and it starts with this game. The Lions are 110th in the country in forcing turnovers and 112th in recovering fumbles. In fact, the Lions have only forced 4 turnovers in Big Ten play this year. That's the same number of turnovers that the Lions forced in a single game against Michigan last year. The team has to get more aggressive on defense in this game and next week in order to finish this season out strongly.
MH: Those are some crazy stats, Nirav. This is another one of those early starts and after last week's deflating loss and a couple of off-the-field problems this week, the Lions have to get a good start right out of the gate rather than wait for the 2nd half. The Hoosiers have enough fire power to put points up on the board if Chappell is under center. So, I think the Lions have to get a good start in this ball game.
ND: The Lions are going to be playing in an away game that is going to feel like a home game since it's being played in the nation's capitol. Considering how poorly the Hoosiers defended the run, I'm looking for Royster to have a monster game in this one.
Penn State 31, Indiana 20
MH: Hoosiers are reeling and Lynch is now being called "83" on message boards everwhere. The Lions will get just enough stops on defense to keep the Hoosiers from logging a win to save their season.
Penn State 28, Indiana 24
Until next time,
Fight On State!