No. 24 Indiana at No. 9 Penn State
When and Where: Saturday, Nov. 16, Beaver Stadium, University Park, Pa., Noon EST
Trying to move on from the sting of its first loss, ninth-ranked Penn State looks to keep itself in contention for the East Division of the Big Ten title Saturday when it hosts No. 24 Indiana.
The Nittany Lions (8-1, 5-1 Big Ten East) came up short in a battle of unbeatens at then-No. 13 Minnesota last Saturday, losing 31-26. Sean Clifford threw for 340 yards and a touchdown but was also intercepted three times as Penn State could not overcome a 14-point first-half deficit.
The loss likely ended Penn State's chances of playing in the College Football Playoff, but the Nittany Lions still control their own destiny to reach the Big Ten title game. They trail No. 2 Ohio State by one game and face the Buckeyes on the road following this game Nov. 30.
Indiana (7-2, 4-2 East) looks primed to play spoiler to Penn State's division hopes while bidding for its fifth consecutive victory. The Hoosiers were idle last week, but their body of work coupled with some shakeups at the bottom of the poll convinced enough voters to put them in the AP Top 25 for the first time since September 1994.
Sustaining that success, though, could prove a challenge. Starting quarterback Michael Penix was lost for the season in Indiana's 38-3 win over Northwestern on Nov. 2 with a collarbone injury. The redshirt freshman had thrown for 1,394 yards and 10 touchdowns in six games for the Hoosiers, who were 5-1 in those games.
Peyton Ramsey, who has been effective when called upon as either a starter or in relief of Penix, has completed 72 percent of his passes for 1,302 yards and nine TDs with only three interceptions. Ramsey completed 7 of 10 passes for 108 yards and a touchdown against Northwestern.
The Hoosiers have lost 15 straight games to ranked opponents since upending then-No. 17 Michigan State on Oct. 1, 2016.
Penn State has dominated this series since joining the Big Ten, winning 21 of the 22 all-time meetings, including the last five since a 44-24 defeat at Indiana in 2013. The Nittany Lions hung on for a 33-28 victory last season despite giving up 550 yards to the Hoosiers.
Allen tells kids to embrace ranking but build on itSome coaches would downplay a national ranking, but with Indiana gaining such acclaim for the first time in more than a generation, Hoosiers coach Tom Allen was more than happy to have his kids enjoy the moment as they seek their first eight-win season since 1988.
The transfer portal is where many QBs turn after not winning the job.— Indiana On BTN (@IndianaOnBTN) November 11, 2019
Not Peyton Ramsey.
The starter-turned-backup-turned-starter couldn't walk out on his teammates.@P_Rams12 | @IndianaFootball pic.twitter.com/XwRSUW6Yqn
"I congratulated them this morning in our team meeting because I understand what it means," Allen said at his Monday media availability. "You just know where your program is, what the steps are to get where you want to be. When you haven't been ranked in 25 years, it is a positive thing when it happens.
"It doesn't do anything for you on game day other than have a little number by your school name when they put it out. At the same time to whom much is given much is required. You learn how to handle the expectations that go along with it. That's part of it ... it's an acknowledgement of what you're doing, the foundation you're laying."
Ramsey has been part of that foundation as a starter each of the previous two seasons and is 42 yards shy of passing Dave Schnell for sixth on the all-time passing yards list. He did not play all that badly against Penn State last season, completing 26 of 36 passes for 236 yards with a touchdown and an interception in a close loss.
Sophomore running back Stevie Scott has 737 yards, but he is not at the levels of his surprising freshman campaign of 2018 when he totaled 1,137 yards and 10 TDs. Scott has gotten fewer touches this season with Penix more of a dual threat but also has been a viable pass-catching option out of the backfield with 23 catches for 207 yards.
Indiana's defense also has been underrated to a degree, entering this game ranked 23rd in the nation in points allowed at 20 points per game. The Hoosiers are also ninth in passing yards allowed (176.3), but that number is enhanced by holding hapless Rutgers to a single yard.
"We've got some talented DBs as well, but they're going to be tested for sure, probably more so than they have been in a while," Allen said. "It's going to take a team effort, all three phases playing together, complementary football, winning football, being able to be at our very, very best. That's what it's going to take.”
Franklin defends Clifford as PSU seeks bounce-back winPenn State has no time to wallow since it still controls its destiny in the East, which meant coach James Franklin went public in his defense of his quarterback. Clifford's three interceptions versus Minnesota doubled his season total, and the coach provided some constructive criticism while praising his play.
"I thought he played a gutsy gutsy (game). I thought he played really hard. He made some big-time plays. He handled adversity," Franklin told the York Daily Record on Wednesday. "He missed some throws he typically makes ... (but) he's probably played better than anyone anticipated coming into the year. I’m very proud of him.
"Onething I did talk to him a little bit about: His greatest strength can be his greatest weakness. He cares so much that he'sgot to funnel thatenergythe right way. Sometimes he's maybe too amped up. Take a deep breath andbe alittlebit more poised."
An emotional Sean Clifford assigns blame to himself, as he has also done after each win.— Tyler Donohue (@TDsTake) November 9, 2019
Penn State teammates were quick to pick him up. pic.twitter.com/4tidNVi7Rn
Clifford and KJ Hamler will try to again lead Penn State's offense. Hamler had seven catches for 119 yards against the Gophers, recording his third 100-yard game of the season. The sophomore already has a personal best in catches (44) and is 16 yards shy of bettering his mark of 739 set last season.
Hamler is trying to become the first 1,000-yard receiver for the Nittany Lions since Chris Godwin totaled 1,101 in 2015. Penn State is third in the Big Ten with 261.8 passing yards per game, and Clifford is tied for second with 21 touchdown passes.
Franklin also explained his decision to go for two in the third quarter after pulling within 24-19, with many second-guessing the move as chasing points too early in the contest.
"A lot ofthese decisions are not clear-cut, it's a gut feel. ...Sometimes the decisions are clear-cut and I get it," he said. "And I make mistakes and alot of people makemistakes.But when things aregrayand things are stated as facts (by reporters and fans), I struggle with that."
- 3-13-1 ATS in its last 17 games following a straight up win by 20 or more points.
- 4-10 ATS in its last 14 road games.
- 1-3-1 ATS in its last five games vs. Penn State.
Penn State is:
- 6-0 ATS in its last six games following an ATS loss.
- 8-1 ATS in its last nine home games vs. teams with an above-.500 road record.
- 5-2 ATS in its last seven home games vs. Indiana.