#24 Penn State Nittany Lions vs. Purdue Boilermakers
The Records: Penn State (5-2, 3-1 Big Ten); Purdue (3-4, 1-3 Big Ten).
The Head Coaches: Penn State: James Franklin, third season, 43-29 overall, 19-14 at Penn State; Purdue: Gerad Parker (interim), 0-1 record while head coach at Purdue, 0-1 overall.
The Game: Penn State hits the road this week to face Purdue at Ross-Ade Stadium in only the third road game of the season for the Nittany Lions.
James Franklin’s squad is fresh off an upset over conference-rival Ohio State last weekend which saw Penn State defeat the then-No. 2 Buckeyes 24-21 on an improbable blocked field goal returned for a touchdown.
The “every game is the same” mantra Franklin has instilled in the program will be put to its biggest test Saturday versus the Boilermakers. With Penn State fresh off the emotional high of beating a top-5 team and being ranked for the first time since 2011, the Nittany Lions will need to avoid a letdown in what is the very definition of a trap game.
In its win over Ohio State, Penn State was catapulted by stellar play on defense and special teams, and the team will need some of that play to carry over in the match-up against Purdue. Both Grant Haley (special teams) and Brandon Bell (defense) took home Big Ten Player of the Week honors for their performances against the Buckeyes. Haley returned the blocked field goal 60 yards for a touchdown, and Bell finished with 18 tackles and a sack.
Purdue is coming off a 13 point loss to Nebraska last Saturday in what was head coach Gerad Parker’s first game as interim head coach this season. The Boilermakers led by four at the end of the first half but were unable to put points on the board in the second half, allowing Nebraska to score 17 unanswered points.
The strength of Purdue’s offense lies solely on the arm of quarterback David Blough. Blough threw for 309 yards last Saturday against the Corn Huskers and has thrown for 2,065 yards on the season thus far. Leading the receiving corps for the Boilermakers is DeAngelo Yancey, who has five touchdowns on the season.
Offensively, Purdue averages 306 yards through the air while managing 120 yards on the ground. The Nittany Lions’ secondary will be tested, but, as the most experienced position group on the defense, it should have some success stopping the pass.
On the defensive side of the football, the Boilermakers give up 249 yards on the ground and only 192 yards in the air. Looking back on previous Penn State game plans, the team has been running the ball a lot more than passing. It helps having running back Saquon Barkley in the backfield; he’s averaging over 121 yards on the ground during the team’s three-game win streak.
To beat Purdue, Penn State needs its defensive front seven to have a similar performance as it did last week, when it sacked Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett six times. Coming into last Saturday’s game, the Buckeyes had only given up five sacks all season.
The Nittany Lions will need to get on board early if they want to record their first true road victory since 2014. Getting Barkley involved early — and often — should be a big key for Penn State to find success Saturday afternoon.
Time: 12 p.m. EDT
Location: Ross-Ade Stadium. West Lafayette, IN.
TV/Radio: ABC/Penn State Radio Network
Prugar’s Prediction: Penn State, 39-17
Image credit: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images