Indiana vs Penn State Predictions and Picks: Against the Spread and Latest Odds
Indiana vs Penn State
Point Spread: Penn State -11
Date and Time: Saturday, October 2, 2:00 pm ET
Indiana vs Penn State Prediction
Out of the tunnel
This is where it fell apart last season for Penn State, an overtime loss to Indiana that began a historically awful 0-5 start that had everyone questioning everything at Penn State.
Except James Franklin.
Penn State’s intense but measured coach regrouped, got his team refocused, and won four straight to finish the season. He changed offensive coordinators (added Mike Yurcich) in the offseason to help jumpstart QB Sean Clifford, and now the Lions are in the top 10 again and working on an 8-game winning streak.
But what do we really know about Penn State?
The Lions’ marquee wins are against two teams that at the time of the game, looked legit. Now, what do we think of Wisconsin and Auburn?
That won’t change how Penn State prepares for Indiana, especially with a huge game at Iowa looming the following week.
After a breakthrough season in 2020, Indiana is struggling to find traction in key games. The Hoosiers two wins were against overmatched teams (Idaho, Western Kentucky), and their two losses to ranked teams (Iowa, Cincinnati).
The little things that IU did right last season – ball security, forcing turnovers, success on third down conversions (offense and defense) – are lagging in games of significance. And here comes another important game.
When Penn State has the ball
Clifford’s regression was a big reason for the early struggles last season, and Franklin didn’t wait long to fix it.
Yurcich was let go at Texas with the rest of the staff when Tom Herman was fired. Yurcich was only there a season, and was the same OC who helped develop Ohio State QB Justin Fields from project at Georgia to 41 TDs (and only 3 INT) in his first season at Ohio State.
Four games into this season, Yurcich has had a remarkable impact on Clifford, who was benched last season because of his struggles. He had lost confidence, he was barely completing 60 percent of his passes and had a career-high 9 INTs.
He’s completing 71 percent of his passes now, has a TD/INT ratio of 8-to-2, and Penn State is again stretching the field vertically in the passing game. That’s important because the run game has been inconsistent despite talent (Noah Cain, Keyvone Lee) at tailback.
Penn State has two wideouts and two big tight ends that cause matchup problems for defenses. Jahan Dotson (27 catches, 4 TDs) is having an All-American type season, and Parker Washington is a talented No.2 receiver.
Tight end Theo Johnson (6-feet-6) is big and athletic, and can run – and he and Brenton Strange stress defenses in the middle of the field. The Hoosiers were top 5 in the nation in interceptions last year, but currently tied for last in the nation with 19 other teams with only one interception – and 73rd in pass efficiency defense.
When Indiana has the ball
Electric QB Michael Penix Jr., is still less than a year removed from an ACL injury, and he doesn’t yet look like the same player that was the driving force behind a magical season in 2020.
He already has thrown more interceptions this season (6) than all of last year (4), and his completion percentage has dipped to 55 percent. More telling: he’s not a threat in the quarterback run game, or when breaking contain when the picket collapses – the very things that made him such a dangerous dual-threat in 2020.
USC transfer Stephen Carr (336 yards, 3 TD, 7.0 ypc.) has helped stop the bleeding on offense, giving the Hoosiers a dynamic threat in the backfield and balance on offense. The more comfortable Penix gets, the further along he goes in the adjustment post-ACL injury, the more dangerous the IU offense can be. Until then, expect defenses – including Penn State – to commit to stopping the run and forcing Penix to beat them.
The bottom line
There’s too much uncertainty on the IU defense, which has forced one turnover and has four sacks in four games.
The Penn State offense has gotten progressively better with each week, and is beginning to play like a unit that can carry the team. This game began Penn State’s decline last season, and the way it ended – a last-second score on a scramble from Penix – still guts the staff.
Indiana vs Penn State Predictions and Pick
Prediction: Penn State, 31-16
Pick: Penn State -11 (-109)