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Penn State Football: Five Things To Watch As The Nittany Lions Face Indiana

by on October 19, 2018 2:00 PM

There is no place like home, but there's nothing like a vacation either, and after two close losses within the walls of Beaver Stadium a road trip might be just what the doctor ordered for the Nittany Lions.

Of course even while Penn State owns a 20-1 record against the Hoosiers, a reinvented program with a competent passing attack doesn't exactly make Bloomington an easy trip either. Indiana had the Nittany Lions on the ropes in 2016 and beat Penn State in 2013 for the program's first-ever win in the series.

And with confidence shaken and nothing for certain in the fourth quarter with this team, it would be unwise to automatically assume the history of the series will continue this weekend.

That being said the Nittany Lions are favored, and for all of their issues, should be. Here are the five things I'm looking for after a long drive to Indianapolis.

Just play:

Penn State has looked like a team trying not to do the wrong thing, and something trying too hard to do the right thing. The Nittany Lions have been at their best when they play with confidence and some of the swagger that won them a Big Ten title. Then again, so many members of this team weren't a part of the 2016 run, so finding that swagger is half the battle. End of the day it's just a game, and if Penn State can play like that, and play like a team that knows it almost beat Ohio State rather than a team afraid to lose, it might go a long way.

Take a chance:

There are a handful of reasons, good and bad, that Penn State hasn't been a team to throw it deep or take chances this season, but it might just help the cause if the offense isn't afraid to spread the field and send it deep. Of course those kinds of plays are harder to execute, and the little things have tripped up Penn State enough already this season that doing calculus before you figure out algebra might be ill advised. Either way, Trace McSorley has made a career out of the deep balls not the screen passes, let him do it again.

Garrett Taylor:

Taylor had up until last week been a consistent force that nobody had noticed. Now with his official coming out party over and done with, can he continue to play like the eraser this defenses has lacked all year? Obviously you don't really want your best defensive player to be the farthest away from the ball, but if Taylor can continue to make plays, that might go a long way towards the defense continuing to build confidence. All things considered the Nittany Lions have played well on the defensive side of the ball the past two weeks, now they just need to find a way to land a closing blow.

Trace:

For as average as Trace McSorley played on Saturday it's worth seeing how he bounces back this weekend. I wouldn't bet against him but he can only do so much on his own. Penn State goes as No.9 goes, so if the Nittany Lions can get a spark on offense and start to turn the ship around it'll begin with him. Then again there is no rule he has to do it all on his own, so if the likes of Miles Sanders of KJ Hamler want to make life easier for him, it's a safe bet Trace won't turn it down.

Special teams:

It's not exactly a secret this unit has looked off in every area not named Blake Gillikin. Just keep an eye out for the positives, big, small, doesn't matter. This group can use all the confidence help it can get. Jake Pinegar's miss against Ohio State didn't help the cause, but it didn't change the outcome. Sooner or later these misses will come back to haunt Penn State. Not to mention lukewarm returns, and seemingly an uncovered fake punt/kick every game.

So yeah, take your pick with this group and keep an eye on it.



Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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