LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Five things to look for as Penn State tries to avoid a letdown after last week's tough loss to Ohio State against a Purdue team that's winless in the Big Ten.
SUBHD: No. 1: Where's the defense?
Purdue hasn't played much of it over the past month, allowing 39.2 points in its past five games, and logic suggests Penn State would be able to blister the Boilermakers.
It's difficult to understand why Bill O'Brien chose not to utilize the NASCAR offense much last week against Ohio State -- it's been the single-most effective aspect of the team so far -- but he has every reason to rev it up early and often against this defense.
The Nittany Lions can pick their poison against Purdue, which gives up 194 yards rushing and 214 passing per game. That leads to big possibilities for Matt McGloin in the passing game or Bill Belton and Zach Zwinak in the running game.
Purdue has an outstanding defensive tackle in Kawann Short, but he's questionable with an ankle injury. Safety Landon Feichter is a good one with four interceptions and team-leading 49 tackles. There's not much beyond those two, however.
PSU (5-3, 3-1 Big Ten)
vs. Purdue (3-5, 0-4)
Where: Ross-Ade Stadium
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m.
Line: PSU by 3 1/2
As long as the Lions can have some kind of balance -- which they didn't against the Buckeyes (1.3 yards per rush) -- they should be able to have their way with Purdue. Penn State already has piled up a lot of points on weak defenses this season (Illinois, Northwestern, Iowa), and today should be no different.
SUBHD: No. 2: Flat feeling
Penn State has to hope what happened Friday wasn't some gloomy foreshadowing. The charter plane had a flight tire, delaying the team's departure from State College more than five hours until about 8 p.m. The team didn't arrive at the hotel in Lafayette until about 9:40 p.m.
The Lions can't afford to be flat at the start of the game and must match Purdue's intensity early, as several players mentioned this week. The Boilermakers are a desperate team playing at home, so you'd think they'd be ready and show some pride, especially early.
Coming out flat on the road used to be a problem for PSU, but that hasn't been an issue so far under O'Brien as the Lions scored 14 points in the first quarter of both road games (Illinois and Iowa).
This team has been ready to play from the outset all season, outscoring opponents 66-0 in the first quarter. If that continues today, PSU should be in good shape.
Get out to an early lead, and the Boilermakers might fold.
SUBHD: No. 3: Is Hope lost?
Coach Danny Hope is in big trouble at Purdue, and this game could go a long way toward determining if he will be fired at season's end. Hope has to know that.
The Boilermakers have a pretty easy schedule the rest of the way -- at Iowa, at Illinois, home against Indiana -- so it's possible they could get on a roll with four straight wins and salvage the season.
A loss today, though, and there's no telling how much things could deteriorate even further and if the players will quit on the season, if they haven't already.
All of this is important because Purdue could be fired up trying to salvage its season, and Hope could come up with something different for the game plan in order to help save his job.
SUBHD: No. 4: Marve's mobility
Purdue quarterback Robert Marve has had three knee injuries in his career, including an ACL injury just eight weeks ago Notre Dame. Somehow, Marve has been able to recover quickly and return to the field this season to replace Caleb TerBush as the starter.
Marve has a big arm and might be able to pick apart PSU's secondary if given time to throw. Look for defensive coordinator Ted Roof to bring a lot of blitzes to pressure Marve, who at one point might have been a dual-threat quarterback but now brings little in terms of scrambling ability.
SUBHD: No. 5: Player to watch
Penn State receiver Allen Robinson could be primed for a big game, whether tight end Kyle Carter plays or not.
If Carter can't go because of his ankle injury, Robinson will have to step up. But even if Carter can play, you'd think he'd be limited, in which case Robinson also would need a big game for the Lions to win.
Robinson has great numbers (52 catches, 631 yards, eight TDs), but he hasn't always been the most sure-handed receiver. He could approach 80 catches with a big finish, which would obliterate the single-season school record of 63 shared by O.J. McDuffie (1992) and Bobby Engram (1995).
Robinson could be around eight catches for 105 yards and two scores today.
Prediction: Penn State 31, Purdue 16
Cory Giger is the host of "Sports Central" from 4 to 6 p.m. daily on ESPN Radio 1430 WVAM. Reach him at 949-7031 or @CoryGiger on Twitter.