If No. 12 Penn State’s 59-0 win at Maryland was easy, what’s this week going to be like when the Nittany Lions come home to host Purdue? The Boilermakers will be without quarterback Elijah Sindelar (broken clavicle) and stud wide receiver Rondale Moore (knee), which makes an already difficult task even more problematic.
Meanwhile, Penn State is beginning to assert itself in the Big Ten East race. The favorite is still Ohio State, but the Nittany Lions have a tricky month coming up after Purdue with games at Iowa, vs. Michigan, at Michigan State and vs. Minnesota. They’ll need to get past Purdue first before embarking on the toughest four-game stretch of their season. Can James Franklin’s team take care of business? Here’s how to watch Saturday’s Big Ten game and the storylines to follow.
Penn State: There aren’t a lot of question marks for this team after four games, but it’ll be interesting to see how the running back rotation continues to progress. There are four guys — Journey Brown, Noah Cain, Devyn Ford and Ricky Slade — with at least 19 touches and two touchdowns. While that has meant no real breakout performances by any of them, it’s also meant fresh legs and everyone contributing in their own way. Will one of those backs start to break free from the rest? Purdue’s rushing defense allows 4.3 yards per attempt, second-worst in the Big Ten, so big-play opportunities will be there.
Purdue: Can the defense, perhaps inexplicably, rise to the challenge? Because Purdue’s offense isn’t going to be the side of the ball that wins this game. Quarterback Jack Plummer has been OK all things considered in the past two weeks, but he’s going up against a Penn State defense that is tied for first in the nation with just three touchdowns allowed through one month. What’s more (Moore?), he’ll operate an offense without the one game-changer defenses can’t always account for. Coach Jeff Brohm is a bright guy and he’s as good at drawing up creative plays as any offensive mind in the game, but this is a lot to ask. If Purdue’s going to have a shot, it’s in an ugly, low-scoring affair.