Nittany Lions face uptempo Hooisers
Penn State will get a dose of their own medicine this week when they take on the up tempo Indiana Hoosiers offense (Noon ET, BTN).
The Hoosiers, who are led by former Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson like to run about 90-100 offensive plays per game, which is something Bill O'Brien and his staff can relate to.
O'Brien brought the NASCAR style offense to State College last season and it has transformed the PSU offense into an exciting entity.
Later today however, Penn State must now deal with that same style and they face an Indiana offense that puts up 44.5 points per game and 547.2 yards of total offense per contest.
When an offensive runs a lot of plays in a short amount of time, that means one thing for the opposing defense. They must be sound in the tackling department.
For those of you who haven't been able to view a Penn State football game yet this season, tackling has been an a bit of an issue. It cost them the game against Central Florida and there's no doubt that there is room for improvement in that area.
Simply put, the Penn State defense has there hands full with this Indiana squad.
"Number one is to be able to handle their tempo. They do a fantastic job," said Bill O'Brien. "Kevin Wilson has done a really good job from when he was at Oklahoma to now being at Indiana trying to run 90 to 100 plays a game. So you have to get lined up, communicate properly and handle the tempo, and then they have some really good skill players. They have two good running backs, a good quarterback that's playing well, a couple of good receivers, good tight ends. So they get you into situations where you're going to have to make plays in space, so handling the tempo and being able to tackle in space and not give up a ton of explosive plays is a big part of the game plan."
Indiana quarterback Nate Sudfeld is 81 of 124 for 1,146 yards, passing for 11 touchdowns and five interceptions. Sudfeld is good at running the Hoosiers offense and if the Nittany Lions do not get pressure on him early and often he will definitely have success against PSU's young secondary.
Cody Latimer, who has 19 catches for 346 yards is Sudfeld's main target. He's averaging 18.2 yards per catch and two touchdowns.
Lastly, running back Tevin Coleman is also somebody the Penn State defense will have to keep an eye on. He has rushed 56 times for 386 yards (6.9 yds per carry) and six touchdowns.
Another concern for the Penn State defense is that they could be facing a long day on the field. Indiana will run an aggressive style of offense and if Penn State also runs a fast paced style, then that means the PSU "D" will be looking at an extended amount of time out there on the field. That's something coach O'Brien said he will have to be aware during the course of the game.
"You have to keep a gauge on that and that's why I think with tempos, you have to have different types of tempos," said O'Brien. "If you watch us and not that we're a great offense, don't get me wrong, but talking about tempo, you can see that we have different types of tempos, where we go really fast, medium fast, and sometimes we huddle up. I think that's really important. You have to gauge that during the game, "how is the game going?" Again, you don't want to put your defense in bad situations where they've just been out there for a while and you go up tempo, it's a 30 second drive, you're three-and-out, and your defense is right back out there. That's not being a very good head coach or offensive coordinator."
The Indiana offense is definitely a concern for Penn State, but the Hoosiers also need to worry about the Nittany Lions' offense as well.
To be frank, the Hoosiers "D" is not very good. They've given up 247.8 rushing yards per game and 463.2 yards of total offense per contest. That does not bode well for Indiana as the Nittany Lions have shown the ability to run the ball with success against all four of their opponents this season.
Penn State running backs Zach Zwinak, Bill Belton, and Akeel Lynch have all rushed for over 200 yards on the season. Zwinak leads the trio with eight touchdowns, while Lynch and Belton average 8.2 and 7.7 yards per carry respectively.
"They play an up tempo style of offensive football so what do we have to do to make sure that we're scoring," said O'Brien. "I don't think we can come out of this game with a bunch of field goals. Again, we've got to score points in this game, but we have to do it in mixing tempos. We can't go into this game thinking we're going to go warp speed every drive."
The Hoosiers give up 215 passing yards per game, which actually isn't too bad, so Hackenberg will have to continue to play solid football. Like O'Brien said, Penn State will have to score some points in this one if they want to take a victory home with them to Happy Valley.
So far, "Hack" has thrown for 1,027 yards, five touchdowns, and four interceptions.
Something Penn State fans would like to see is Hackenberg get the tight ends a little more involved this week. Standouts Jesse James and Kyle Carter have combined for just 14 catches for 174 yards and zero touchdowns this season.
Penn State is favored by 3 1/2 points against the Hoosiers at noon today, which will be televised on the Big Ten Network.
My pick is Penn State 37, Indiana 27.