5 Keys for PSU football
Five things to look for as Penn State plays a team in Purdue that hasn’t beaten a Division I-A opponent all season and comes into Beaver Stadium as more than a three-touchdown underdog.
No. 1: Commit to run
The Boilermakers have one of the worst defenses in the country against the run, giving up 224 yards per game. Just barely better than them is Indiana, which gives up 217.
Bill O’Brien elected to throw the ball 55 times against Indiana instead of pounding the ball on the ground, and Penn State lost. O’Brien obviously prefers throwing the ball, but you have to take advantage of the defense’s weakness, so we’ll see if he learned a lesson in his game planning.
Purdue should not be able to stop a heavy dose of the Zach Zwinak/Bill Belton tandem, so instead of 55 passes, 55 running plays would be more suitable for this opponent.
SUBHD: No. 2: No fumbles
One issue with committing to the run is whether O’Brien trusts that Zwinak and Belton will hold onto the football, something both have had trouble doing.
Belton had 201 yards two weeks ago against Illinois, while Zwinak had 150 yards last week at Minnesota. A 250-yard game between the two of them should all but assure Penn State an easy win.
SUBHD: No. 3: Crush this team
Purdue is really bad. Every stat says so, and the eye test says so. The Boilermakers’ only win came against lowly Indiana State, 20-14, and that team is a woeful 1-9 playing at the Division I-AA level.
Penn State is just 5-4 and 2-3 in the Big Ten plus is playing with only 61 scholarship players, yet is favored by 22 points. That should tell you just how bad Purdue is this season.
Let’s be clear here: A loss today would be one of the worst in Penn State history.
The Nittany Lions can’t be messing around playing a close game and letting the Boilermakers feel like they’ve got a shot. Penn State needs to play well and take control early, which is always asking a lot in a noon kickoff.
SUBHD: No. 4: Better defense
Penn State’s defense hasn’t looked good against the pass all season, but this could be a good day since Purdue struggles throwing the ball.
Freshman Danny Etling is completing just 48.1 percent and has more interceptions (5) than TDs (4). He took over as the starter in week five and has not lived up to his recruiting hype as a four-star recruit and ninth-best quarterback in the nation according to rivals.com.
Penn State’s defensive backs must make sure this isn’t the day that Etling turns the corner. The Lions haven’t been able to get pressure on the quarterback all season, and that should change today, as well, as Etling has been sacked 21 times in his five games.
SUBHD: No. 5: Player to watch
Penn State’s offensive line figures to have a good day against Purdue’s poor run defense. The Lions’ O-line has not been anywhere near as good as many people expected, but it should excel against this kind of opponent.
Prediction: Penn State 37, Purdue 10
Follow Giger’s live game updates on Twitter @CoryGiger.