Prediction, Preview, and Odds
#325 Indiana 50 vs.
#326 Penn State -14.5
Saturday, November 16, 2019 at 12:00pm EST
Written by Chris Altruda

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#325 Indiana University
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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 it

Some 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.

"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 win

Penn 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."

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."

Best Bets for this Game

Full-Game Side Bet

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The hook prevents an aggressive play with the Nittany Lions, and this game could wind up being close. But this is a game about culture, and Penn State simply does not lose games like this at home with its back to the wall. And that holds true against a team like Indiana, which admittedly is overachieving, but the loss of Penix may be too much for the Hoosiers to overcome.

Prediction: Penn State -14.5 (-110)

Full-Game Total Pick

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This line has jumped four points since opening at 50.5 points, which is somewhat surprising considering Indiana has to switch quarterbacks to Ramsey. Per Covers.com, the under has hit in four of the last five games in Happy Valley, and the under is 7-2 in Penn State's last nine Big Ten games.

Prediction: UNDER 54.5 points (-110)

Full-Game Prop Bet

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Sliding the under below a flat touchdown total and getting the Nittany Lions as single-digit favorites is too good to pass up. Penn State has won 13 of its last 19 home games by double-digit margins and averaged 36.8 points in a current eight-game winning streak at Happy Valley.

Additionally, Indiana has been held under 30 points once all season -- by an Ohio State team that looks to be one of the nation's best. The offense has not skipped a beat under Ramsey, and they should be good for the 20-plus points that should let the over hit easily.

At less confidence but still a worthwhile play is Indiana scoring over 20 points at -105 via PointsBet.com.

Prediction: Penn State -8/OVER 48 points teaser (-110)

Half-Time Side Pick

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Even with the loss to Minnesota, the Nittany Lions are outscoring conference foes by an average of 14 points. At home, they have held double-digit leads at intermission in both games. The Hoosiers are no slouches, but a two-possession lead is definitely in play for Penn State. The hook, though, prohibits an aggressive play.

Prediction: Penn State -7.5 (-110)

Half-Time Total Bet

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A low-side hook on a flat touchdown total, however, is worth an aggressive play here. Penn State has played to 28 first-half points in both its Big Ten home games, while Indiana has seen its three road games have 35 or more points in the first two quarters. The Hoosiers have also averaged 18.2 first-half points in conference play -- they likely will not match that, but even 13 points should be enough to carry the over.

Prediction: OVER 27.5 points (-110)
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Written By Chris Altruda

A 1994 graduate of Marquette University when they were known as the Warriors and Brooklyn native, Chris Altruda is based in Chicago. Prior to joining our team here at Winners & Whiner, he worked at three major U.S. wire services and also has prior experience in sports handicapping and daily fantasy roster building. Now that the Cubs have won a World Series, he holds out hope the Jets will win a Super Bowl before he dies. Follow Chris daily right here at W&W and on Twitter at @AlTruda73. You won’t be disappointed.