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Purdue University

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College football preview: Purdue at Penn State

Records: Boilermakers (1-8, 0-5 Big Ten); Nittany Lions (5-4, 2-3)

When: Noon today

Where: Beaver Stadium, University Park, Pa.

TV: Big Ten Network

Radio: 1380 AM

On the Web: To watch a video preview for the game, go to “Boiling Point” at www.journalgazette.net

3 matchups to watch

Purdue quarterback Danny Etling vs. Penn State secondary: The Nittany Lions aren’t their typical selves on defense this season. Penn State ranks 61st in the country in yards given up and 71st in scoring defense at 27.3 points per game. That could help Etling or redshirt freshman Austin Appleby, who found himself at quarterback late in the game Saturday during the Boilermakers’ 38-14 loss to Iowa. Purdue has faced four top-50 defenses in its past four games, and with inexperienced players scattered throughout the offense, a break from those tough units will be more than welcome.

Purdue secondary vs. Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg: Hackenberg, like Etling, is a true freshman thrust into a big role at a Big Ten program. Unlike Etling, the 6-foot-4 signal-caller out of Palmyra, Va., has had some success. Hackenberg has thrown for 2,187 yards and 13 touchdowns, along with eight interceptions. His top target, junior wide receiver Allen Robinson, has become a shoo-in for All-Big Ten honors by the end of the season. Robinson has 1,106 receiving yards, six touchdowns and is averaging more than 15 yards per catch. Cornerbacks Ricardo Allen and Frankie Williams will be key in containing Robinson, and the defensive front has a role to play, too. Much like Etling, Hackenberg is prone to coverage sacks.

Purdue special teams vs. Penn State special teams: This is a blanket look at the units because this is the phase where the Boilermakers can most realistically expect to beat Penn State. While Purdue hasn’t busted many big returns this season, the Nittany Lions have been poor in coverage and could give Raheem Mostert and Akeem Hunt some lanes to run through on kick returns. Much has been made of Penn State place-kicker Sam Ficken’s struggles this season, too. He is 13 for 18 on field goals and has missed at least one kick in three of his past five games.

Prediction: Penn State 28, Purdue 10

smorrison@jg.net

– Sean Morrison The Journal Gazette

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