Nittany Lion Turnaround: Going into Week 5 & the B1G

Last Week:  Penn State 34 - Eastern Michigan 6.

Generally:

I predicted a 24-6 win, and while the defense turned out a performance just as I thought it would, the passing game came alive and put some more points on the board than I expected.  In this instance I'm happy to be wrong.

Once again, though, the quarterback controversy was lessened in no way, shape, or form.  Matt McGloin came out and does what he does best by feasting on a weak defense and winning Co-Offensive Player of the Week alongside Denard Robinson.  References to the quarterback controversy becoming a quarterback carousel are apt at this point - the rotation is even and predictable and there are plenty of bystanders giggling as they watch.  Unfortunately for this carousel, the people along for the ride are not having too much fun.

The biggest negative coming out of the game was the loss of Michael Mauti for the season with his second career ACL tear.  Penn State's best player on defense, he was also a huge leader for the team and his absence will be felt for the rest of the year.  Hopefully he can rehab in time to play for all of 2012 and show people how good he is.

1018-psu_mich_cek727-_medium_medium

 

If they had played the game ten times, Penn State would have won...

...ten times.  We knew Eastern Michigan was bad defensively, but thought some combination of Penn State shooting themselves in the foot and Ron English being familiar with PSU's tendencies could potentially make things ugly.  It didn't.  Penn State was better in all phases of the game, and Matt McGloin put on the best performance of a PSU QB so far this season.  The Nittany Lions had some big, explosive plays that highlighted just how much more athletic the players they field are.  We even managed to involve Devon Smith in a way that makes sense.  Any way you slice it, Penn State wins that matchup.

 

Bonus:  As we close the book on the non-conference slate, I think a look at Penn State's past opponents fits the spirit of the hindsight that comes with this column.  No one thought Indiana State would be good, and they didn't look too great against Penn State.  Alabama was considered a national title contender when they came to Happy Valley, and Penn State played tough for a half but ultimately couldn't hang.  We thought Temple may be kind of a tough game, and Penn State made them look like real competition.

So how good are those teams now, with some more games under their belts?  Black Shoe Diaries checked in on them this week:

Not So Cupcakey After All -- Did you know Penn State's non-conference opponents are now a combined 12-1 against teams not nicknamed the Nittany Lions? The only loss is by Eastern Michigan (2-2) against the Michigan Wolverines. Indiana State (3-1) is off to its best start since dinosaurs roamed the earth, including a blowout (!) win over I-A/FBS team Western Kentucky, and a then-No. 24 Youngstown State. Alabama (4-0) just trounced 12th-ranked Arkansas by a larger margin than the Tide beat Penn State. But the biggest surprise has been not just that Temple is a good team this year, but that its near-upset over Penn State might have been nearer than we thought. The Owls just returned to Philadelphia from a trip to Maryland, where the Owls took the Terps behind the woodshed for a 38-7 road win. Bernard Pierce scored five touchdowns, as Temple ran for 285 net yards (305 total).

Maybe that mediocre 3-1 isn't too bad after all...

This Week:  Penn State @ Indiana, 12:00 p.m.

Because of scheduling issues, Penn State plays on the road against Indiana for the second straight game.  Last Indiana sold their home game to the Redskins and it was played in Washington, D.C., but it still counts as a road performance for the Lions.  

Mostly the same players from that performance will trot out on offense for Penn State on Saturday.  Last year, Matt McGloin led the Lions in a huge win (his performance wasn't all that different than last week vs. EMY) after a slow first half start.  I expect similar offensive production this year.  Coupled with a much-improved PSU defense, this game should be less competitive than last year's 41-24 outcome.  Penn State on the road, a time zone away, with a noon start, though?  You can take those expectations down a notch or two.

If Penn State beats Indiana, it will be like...


..."The Same Thing We Do Every Night..."  Penn State is 14-0 against Indiana, which I believe is the only unbeaten win-loss record among members of the Big Ten.  Bad Penn State teams have found ways to win close ones.  Good Penn State teams have come out flat, been close in the first half, but had the game in hand down the stretch.  Pinky and the Brain may have come close to actually taking over the world, but before the night is over they inevitably fail.  

Indiana against PSU: Inevitable fail.

If Penn State loses to Indiana, it will be like...

Facepalm_implied_medium

...Tommy Lee Jones implied facepalm.  (Credit to whoever set this image loose on the internet: kudos to you, sir).Sooner or later, the star will align and an underperforming Penn State team will lose to Indiana, most likely during a noon away game.  When it eventually does happen an appropriate reaction will be to bury one's face in one's palms (and maybe cry a little).  But there is no reason for that to happen on Saturday.  Penn State has a very good defense nationally, and has the best defense that the Hoosiers have faced by a mile.  Penn State's offense is the weakness here, and essentially this same offense piled it on against Indiana on the road just last year.  

If Penn State loses something more than your average facepalm is required.  A Tommey Lee Jones complete badass implied facepalm should do the trick.  Depending on the amount of ineptitude on display in this hypothetical loss, though, I reserve the right to upgrade it to a Liam Neeson implied facepalm.

 

My Prediction:

Penn State 34, Indiana 13.  Penn State's defense is way better than Indiana has faced.  I'm less worried about the offense this week, not because of the success against Eastern Michigan last week, but because of the success against Indiana with the same players last year.  Indiana has given  has hung tough with PSU in the first half many times, but I think this game is well in the bag before the third quarter ends.

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