No. 4 Penn State will welcome Indiana to Happy Valley on Saturday in a Big Ten clash. This battle between the Nittany Lions and Hoosiers will serve as a rematch of one of the wildest games we saw in the 2020 season. The Hoosiers knocked off the Nittany Lions in the season-opener, so Penn State will be out for revenge at home this weekend.
That Saturday night at Indiana's Memorial Stadium saw the Hoosiers pull off a 36-35 upset win over the Nittany Lions in overtime. There was the iconic stretch from Indiana quarterback Michael Penix for the pylon on a two-point conversion to tie the game at the end of regulation and force the overtime. Indiana would ride the momentum further, opting to go for two yet again in overtime to win. It was Indiana's first victory over Penn State since the 2013 season and only their second in history. It would send the Hoosiers on their way to the 6-2 season that saw them become a national darling.
For Penn State, the loss would serve as the first of five to open the season. The Nittany Lions eventually recovered with four straight wins, and have won their first four games of 2021, climbing up to No. 4 in the AP Poll in the process. This week, they seek revenge while Indiana looks to prove last season wasn't an outlier.
Penn State vs Indiana: Need to know
Penn State's impressive résumé: The Nittany Lions weren't punished too much by voters for last season. They began the 2021 season ranked No. 19 in the AP Poll, have climbed 15 spots to No. 4, and are now seen as legitimate College Football Playoff contenders. That's what happens when you open the season with a road win over Wisconsin, follow it up with a home victory against Auburn, and sprinkle in easy wins over Ball State, the defending MAC champion, and Villanova. Of course, it doesn't hurt when highly-ranked teams like Ohio State and Clemson lose games, too. Regardless of the circumstances, you'd have a hard time arguing that the Nittany Lions haven't been one of the most impressive teams in the country.
Sean Clifford's big step forward: To be blunt, Clifford was one of the most prominent question marks about this team before the season. Looking at Penn State's overall roster, there was enough talent to think this team could compete for a Big Ten title, but was it good enough QB? Clifford has made quite the statement for "yes." He enters this game second in the Big Ten in passing efficiency, and he's completed 71.7% of his passes for 1,162 yards (9.7 per attempt) with eight touchdowns to just two interceptions. It's clear the switch to new offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich has been good for both Clifford and the Penn State offense.
Michael Penix's big step back: Indiana doesn't go 6-2 last season without Michael Penix playing the best football of his career. While Penix has never been the most accurate passer, he overcame a low completion rate of 56.4% by connecting on big plays and taking care of the football. In 2020, Penix threw for 14 touchdowns with only four interceptions. In 2021, his completion rate has only dropped from 56.4% to 55%, but he's thrown six interceptions. His touchdown rate and yards per attempt numbers have plummeted as well, and Indiana simply doesn't have the level of talent to overcome the turnovers. Saturday in Beaver Stadium would be a great time for Penix to rediscover his 2020 form if the Hoosiers want to pull off another upset and avoid an 0-2 start to Big Ten play.
How to watch Penn State vs Indiana live
Date: Saturday, October 2 | Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Location: Beaver Stadium -- University Park, Pennsylvania
TV: ABC | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Penn State vs Indiana prediction, picks
Last season, the Hoosiers took advantage of turnovers en route to their best season in a long time. Their points off turnovers margin of +41 ranked in a tie for 10th nationally with Ohio State, but keep in mind the Hoosiers played in only eight games. This season, the Hoosiers rank 95th nationally with a points off turnovers margin of -7. If Indiana can take care of the football, it can hang with the Nittany Lions. Unfortunately, nothing I've seen from the Hoosiers has me confident they'll be able to do that. Indiana keeps it close into the early third quarter, but Penn State puts the game away after that. Prediction: Indiana (-10.5)
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