Penn State football: 5 things I'd love to see Saturday vs. Indiana, plus a prediction
Penn State thrived on offense against Ohio State with 2 of its starting offensive linemen on the sideline.
It might very well be down at least 2 for its game Saturday at Indiana. And the situation might be worse this time around, because now the team’s best lineman is questionable.
It might not matter, given that the Hoosiers are struggling mightily and riding a 5-game losing streak. Saturday might be a great time for 3rd-year line coach Phil Trautwein to get a look at some candidates to fill 1 or more open spots up front next season.
Beyond the line worries, there’s the question of the quarterback rotation. Those two things provide reasons to tune in to your favorite weekend soap opera, because drama king James Franklin isn’t dropping any midweek spoilers.
Here’s what I hope to see from Penn State (6-2, 3-2) on the next episode of As the B1G East Turns:
Pleasant surprises up front
Left tackle Olu Fashanu, who needed all of 8 college starts to go from unknown to projected first-round NFL Draft pick, exited the 44-31 loss to Ohio State just prior to the final whistle and was seen with a trainer.
“Yeah, so as you know, injuries, I don’t get into a whole lot of specifics and details. We’ll see how this week goes with him,” Franklin said at his weekly media session on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Fashanu and left guard Landon Tengwall were not seen practicing during the brief period open to the media.
If both Fashanu and the redshirt freshman Tengwall are out, the left side of Penn State’s line could be an adventure. Tengwall has missed 3 straight games after reportedly getting injured in pregame warmups at Michigan. Right tackle Caedan Wallace, who missed Saturday’s game, was seen at practice, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s ready to return from whatever issue he’s having.
True freshman Vega Iaone and JUCO transfer JB Nelson probably lead the list of next men up.
I’d like to be pleasantly surprised about the starters’ availability. And if not, then by some fresh faces stepping up and showing promise for the future.
A 100-yard back
True freshmen Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen combined for 121 yards on 4.65 per carry against the Buckeyes, but for the 4th straight game, neither hit the 100-yard mark.
I’d love to see the explosive Singleton get 20+ carries, because he should be able to break some long-gainers against the No. 11 rush defense in the Big Ten.
Sean Clifford and Drew Allar
Unlike some fans, I’m totally cool with Sean Clifford starting from here on out, provided 5-star freshman quarterback Drew Allar gets significant playing time.
As I wrote a day ago, Penn State should be able to pursue and 11-2 finish and prep for 2023, and that’s the prudent approach now that B1G title and CFP dreams have been dashed.
10 tackles for Abdul Carter
No offense to Curtis Jacobs, but true freshman Abdul Carter is Penn State’s best linebacker and the future at the position. Even though he’s started just 1 game and got kicked out of the season-opener early for targeting, Carter ranks 3rd on the team in tackles behind safety Ji’Ayir Brown and Jacobs.
Already granted the revered No. 11 jersey, Carter will be the face of the defense next year after Brown, Joey Porter Jr., PJ Mustipher and possibly Jacobs are gone.
He had a career-high 8 tackles 2 games ago against Minnesota. It’s time for DC Manny Diaz to set him free to roam and wreak havoc.
The future should be now for Allar and Carter.
More fun with formations
Among the positive signs obscured by Clifford’s 4 turnovers on Saturday was Penn State shifting into and out of bunch formations on offense.
Second-year OC Mike Yurcich has been tweaking his scheme since arriving, having Clifford go under center more and more, lining up multiple players in the backfield and throwing in other bells and whistles. Because of it, Penn State has been better in short-yardage situations and overall harder to defend.
It’s a work in progress for sure, but anything that keeps the backs, tight ends and receivers all involved and stressing the defense is a good thing.
Regardless of who plays up front or at quarterback, Penn State should dominate this game.
Indiana (3-5, 1-4) ranks bottom 3 in the B1G in completion percentage, interceptions thrown and quarterback ranking. Penn State’s secondary should have plenty of fun while working out their frustrations from being picked apart by CJ Stroud.
IU coach Tom Allen reportedly is contemplating pulling the plug on Connor Bazelak and switching to Jack Tuttle or Dexter Williams at quarterback.
Taking a page from Franklin’s book, he said: “You’ll have to wait ’til Saturday to see who our starting quarterback is going to be.”
He won’t be doing any of them any favors sending them against Penn State’s secondary.
Penn State 34, Indiana 10