- Josh Moyer, ESPN Staff Writer
Every weekday over the next two weeks, NittanyNation will take a closer look at a different game this season and how the matchup stacks up for PSU. Up today: Indiana.
The Hoosiers last won a bowl game in 1991, before PSU joined the Big Ten. But head coach Kevin Wilson is slowly turning things around -- and this could be the season in which it all comes together.
No, Indiana won't challenge for the conference title or for a major bowl. But the Hoosiers return 21 of 24 starters, and going bowling for the first time in six years is a definite possibility.
The Hoosiers have one of the better offenses in the Big Ten but, in Dr. Jekyll-like fashion, it also had one of the worst defenses in the country last season. Wilson and company led Indiana to the nation's 17th-best passing attack, but it didn't crack the top 100 in total defense, scoring defense or rush defense.
There's a lot of work left to be done for Indiana, but this team could pose a challenge to Penn State for a change. The Nittany Lions remain the obvious favorites, but this game is no longer a lock.
When: Oct. 5 at Memorial Stadium, Bloomington, Ind. (time and TV TBA)
Last season: Indiana was 4-8, 2-6 Big Ten.
Series history: PSU leads 16-0
Biggest question marks: The interior of the defense has to top the list of Indiana concerns. The Hoosiers' rush defense was nothing short of pathetic last season, allowing more than 230 yards per game, and it might be worse off this season without its two starting defensive tackles.
Adam Replogle was the lone Indiana player to find himself as a consensus pick on the All-Big Ten team (a second-team selection) -- and, now, he and Larry Black have graduated. That's bad news for Indiana when it comes to squaring off against teams with bruising runners such as Zach Zwinak.
Outside of defensive line, quarterback remains a question mark, but not a weakness. Cam Coffman played well in spots last season after Tre Roberson went down, and Coffman even passed for 454 yards against Penn State. Still, it's no lock he'll start. Either way, Indiana's passing attack should be improved. Defense, however, is the biggest weakness all around -- even with all the returners.
Biggest strengths: Quarterback, running back, wide receiver. Anyway you look at it, the Hoosiers have a great offense. RB Stephen Houston can catch out of the backfield or pound the ball inside, and the Hoosiers have a multitude of nice options at quarterback.
Their six leading pass-catchers return, and it will be difficult for any defense to key on a single player. Cody Latimer has a nice blend of speed and size at 6-foot-3, Shane Wynn appears to made in the mold of Jordan Norwood, and TE Ted Bolser should be a threat in the red zone. This offense has a lot going for it, and it's not going to be easy to stop.
Who to watch: Safety Greg Heban. For Indiana's defense to even achieve mediocrity, it has to start with its best player in Heban. Turnovers were few and far between for Indiana last season, and Heban finished with a team-best three picks.
He also came up with a team-leading 91 tackles, and he'll be critical in stopping the big play -- which was this defense's big issue last season. Indiana allowed about 18 plays a game that went farther than 10 yards, and that was the worst in the conference. It must get better there, and a lot will be expected of Heban.
What you might not know: One of the two teams who continued to go hard after three-star linebacker Jared Wangler, even after his commitment to PSU, was Indiana.
The Hoosiers resorted to some negative recruitment, asking Wangler if he wanted to play in bowls or not. Of course, as previously mentioned, Indiana hasn't made a bowl in six years.
"Yeah, that's exactly what I said," Wangler said with a laugh. "I don't know what they were thinking."
Rest assured, Lions fans, Wangler isn't ditching the Blue and White for the Cream and Crimson anytime soon. He obviously found that kind of recruiting pitch pretty odd.
Early prediction: PSU 38-28. Indiana throws for a lot of yards, but PSU's offense isn't challenged and Zwinak rumbles to a big game.
4dMitch Sherman and Dan Murphy