Boilermakers are injury laden and struggling so keep an eye on Lions’ intensity and attention to detail
Penn State is 4-0, ranked inside the Top 15 and flying high after clubbing Maryland (again) in its first road game of the season.
After playing a nearly perfect half of football against the Terrapins, there is precious little to zero in on for the upcoming match-up when a struggling and banged up 1-3 Purdue squad pays a visit to Beaver Stadium for the noon kick, right.?
That would be wrong.
Before we set the expectations for what to expect on Saturday, it has to be mentioned that Purdue comes into this game an absolute mess.
One of the best young wide receivers in the country, sophomore Rondale Moore, will not play. Starting quarterback Elijah Sindelar, a fifth-year senior who was off to a decent start in 2019, is also out. That duo was hurt on the same play in the loss last week to Minnesota.
Deep threat wide receiver Jared Sparks is averaging nearly 19 yards a catch for Purdue. Yep, he’s out as well. And returning All-Big Ten defensive tackle Lorenzo Neal still hasn’t suited up for the Boilermakers in 2019 as he recovers from knee surgery.
By my count that’s at least four of Purdue’s top five players who will not be on the field Saturday. The running game is ranked in the bottom five for FBS schools nationally at just over 60 yards a game.
A relatively inexperienced quarterback in Jack Plummer will start under center for Purdue. Good luck with the Penn State front and linebackers and welcome to the Big Ten Mr. Plummer.
Bottom line is Purdue is wounded and very limited offensively. And its defense surrenders more than 450 yards and nearly 33 points a game – near the bottom in FBS in both categories.
If it looks like a mismatch and smells like a mismatch it’s probably a mismatch. And right now this is a massive mismatch.
Penn State’s No. 1 task on Saturday is to make it so.
That close call with Pitt prior to the bye was a huge wake-up call in my book. My guess is it grabbed the attention of the players and during the two weeks of practice leading up to the Maryland game the Nittany Lions were more focused, attentive and raised the standard at practices. And it showed against Maryland.
For the better part of eight quarters, as a team overall, Penn State was struggling. The defense was carrying the offense on its shoulders while still not having a huge impact.
This is an extremely talented team James Franklin has. Yet for the better part of the two games – Buffalo and Pitt – this group was underperforming.
I think the bye week the practices were at another level and that’s what you saw last Friday in College Park. And Maryland was the best team Penn State had faced in 2019.
The standard was set during the bye on how to get better Monday through Thursday. That is now the standard going forward and with a very favorable match-up in a talent depleted Purdue squad the opportunity exists to make it a long day for the Boilermakers.
Watch the intensity level of the Nittany Lions and focus on the small attention-to-detail things and you’ll know whether what you saw Friday was a one-hit wonder or the beginning of what this Penn State team is going to be.
My bet is on the latter.