After suffering their first loss in five games last Saturday against Ohio State, the Penn State Nittany Lions hit the road to try and start a new winning streak.
Hopes of another long winning streak for Penn State begins when they travel to face the Purdue Boilermakers Saturday at 3:30. For the Nittany Lions (5-3, 3-1 Big Ten), it’s an opportunity to forget a dreadful and sloppy performance in primetime against the Buckeyes. For the Boilermakers (3-5, 0-4 Big Ten), it’s a chance to prove they’re better than their winless Big Ten record indicates.
Considered before the season to be a threat in the Big Ten’s Leaders Division with both the Nittany Lion and Buckeyes ineligible, the Boilermakers started 3-1 before losing four-straight. Penn State, meanwhile, started out 0-2 before seeing a five-game winning streak that the Buckeyes ended just last week. Purdue will have its hands full in facing a Penn State offense that can hang with the best in the conference thanks to quarterback Matt McGloin, and faces a defense giving up close to 30 points per game. On the other hand, despite giving up 35 points to the wizard Braxton Miller and Ohio State last week, the Penn State defense is still surrendering just 18 points a game. Purdue’s offense will be in for some tough sledding against that same Penn State unit that is out to prove itself following the poor showing at home last week.
The Nittany Lions will need a bounce-back game from McGloin, who wasn’t as efficient against Ohio State (he threw a pick six) as he was in previous games, despite throwing for 324 yards. They’ll also need to better establish the run game, where they posted just 32 team rushing yards last week. Tightening up and playing a more disciplined game will also be on the agenda for coach Bill O’Brien’s crew this week, as the Lions racked up 85 yards on nine penalties against Ohio State last week, many of which extended dormant Buckeye drives. While some of that could be attributed to the adrenaline many of the Lions played with that night, O’Brien still couldn’t have been pleased with the way his team seemingly took themselves out of the game with mistakes.
In this matchup, the Lions will most likely look to exploit Purdue’s porous defense, which has allowed more than 400 yards per game to opponents so far in 2012. It’s also a chance for the Lions to get their ground game-and Bill Belton-going again, as the Boilermakers allow almost 200 rushing yards per contest. Look for O’Brien to try and establish the running game early-something they didn’t do against Ohio State-to open up McGloin and the passing attack as the game goes on. For Purdue, they’ve got to do a better job of stopping the ground game, but early on it’d be wise for the Boilermakers to stack against the pass and force Penn State to try and run the ball. That would at least disrupt the Lions’ passing attack and force them to utilize their below-average ground game. On offense, the Boilermakers average above 200 yards through the air and lead the Big Ten with 19 passing touchdowns. Opponents have had a miserable time against the Penn State defense this season, but they have been prone to some big passing plays (Like Ohio State’s 72 yard bomb last week), so that’s something to look for there from the Purdue offense.
Expect a grind-it-out type of game here from these two, and don’t forget that special teams could be a factor in what will most likely be a close game as neither team has great kickers.
Penn State rushing attack vs. Purdue front seven. Purdue can’t stop the run and Penn State doesn’t necessarily run the ball all that great. Belton has talent, and if Penn State’s offensive line starts to lean on the Purdue defense line, it could spell trouble for the Boilermakers. Meanwhile, Penn State needs more balance in their offense than they had last week against the Buckeyes.
Bill Belton, RB, Penn State. Belton broke out two weeks ago against Iowa and had Penn State envisioning a balanced offense with a running game to go along with its impressive aerial attack. Instead, Belton was bottled up by a stout Ohio State defense and has the Lions again looking for balance. Against a terrible defense, expect a big day from Belton and the entire Penn State offense.
The two Akeem’s, Shavers and Hunt, RB, Purdue. If the Boilermakers can’t establish their decent running attack early against a tough Penn State front seven, they’ll be looking at their fifth Big Ten loss. The two Akeem’s are important in not only churning out yardage, but keeping Penn State’s suddenly potent offense off the field against the putrid Purdue defense.