NCAAF · Fri (12/16) @ 11:35am ET
|Legion Field Stadium, Birmingham, Alabama|
Our Pick: PSU Penn State at 10.5 (-108). Claim your $250 deposit match at BetRivers!
After a solid, textbook victory at Wisconsin to open their season, the Nittany Lions have had the luxury of four in a row inside their own stadium. This is the last of that quartet before a tough one next week at Iowa.
Penn State has shown itself to be considered among the nation’s élite, and that thanks goes to quarterback Sean Clifford, a fifth-year senior from Cincinnati who himself is on the verge of élite status.
Until last season’s thrilling defeat at Indiana in overtime, the Lions had gone 22-1 in its series against the Hoosiers. Penn State will continue its dominance of Indiana Saturday night at Beaver Stadium.
Indiana Hoosiers (2-2)
Michael Penix Jr. (6-3, 218), a fourth-year junior, has been tested. Each of his past three seasons have ended early due to injury. His left (throwing) arm got banged up two weeks ago against Cincinnati, but X-rays proved negative and he’s been cleared to play.
He has completed only 55% of his attempts, and he has four touchdowns and six interceptions. That last stat is tied, with Chevan Cordeiro of Hawaii and Graham Mertz of Wisconsin, for most in the nation.
Happy Valley is not a destination site for a struggling quarterback. The Nittany Lions allow a scant 4.9 yards per pass and 0.174 points per play, both fifth-lowest in the game.
That Penn State defense only allows opposing quarterbacks to complete 54.6% of their attempts, too. Only five defenses are stingier in keeping the ball out of receivers’ paws.
This is Penix’s first trip to Beaver Stadium. As a rookie in 2018, his season ended when he sustained a knee injury against the Lions. A year ago, his numbers were mediocre at home against Penn State but the outcome was stunning, a 36-35 overtime victory.
Indiana at Penn State Full Sportsbook Odds
Penn State Nittany Lions (4-0)
Clifford (6-2, 214) has been dynamite this season, as his 9.7 yards-per-attempt rate—12th in the nation—is just out of the double-digit figure that NFL scouts so prize.
He has completed 86 of 120 attempts, a 71.7% success rate that is No. 15 in the country, for 1,158 yards and eight touchdowns, and he has had only two passes picked off.
Third-year sophomore tailback Noah Cain (5-10, 226) has been somewhat of a surprise in the backfield, running 48 times for 164 yards and three TDs, catching eight passes for a 7.1-yard average.
Clifford’s main target has been senior Jahan Dotson, who has nabbed 27 passes for a top-25 362 yards, a 13.4-yard average, and four TDs. He’s a burner, covering 40 yards in 4.45 seconds.
Redshirt freshman Parker Washington and sophomore Keandre Lambert-Smith both average 13.1 yards per catch.
Penn State also takes very good care of the ball, owning a turnover margin of +1.7 a game, seventh-best in the land.
And in the red zone, the Nittany Lions have scored 91% of the time. Indiana foes have come away with points on every single occasion they’ve eked into the red zone. Don’t feel so bad, Hoosiers faithful, for 21 other programs also yield points 100% of the time the other guys enter the red zone.
Penn State’s defense allows opponents to score on fewer than 55% of their trips inside the red zone, and only five other teams are stickier with their backs so close to that goal line. All of that is trouble for Indiana.
Sports Betting Recommendation
Our two favored models have Penn State winning by 37-21 and 41-23 scores, but it’s challenging to figure out how the Hoosiers will tally 20 points.
Penix is a gamer but has been banged up his entire career. Sophomore backup Jack Tuttle (6-4, 212), a native of San Mateo, Calif., who started his career at Utah, has played in 10 games for the Hoosiers and averages 5.6 yards on 89 attempts.
With games at Iowa and Ohio State in the next three weeks, Penn State must cap this four-game home stretch in style, with a convincing victory that shows what it did at Wisconsin was no fluke.