BLOOMINGTON — Do Indiana coach Bill Lynch a favor. No, that doesn't mean slipping the Pittsburgh Steelers defense into Penn State's Beaver Stadium in Cream and Crimson colors Saturday. It does mean skipping all the must-win talk around his players.
Why is that? For starters, the Hoosiers (4-6) are well aware they have to beat No. 18 Penn State (8-2) on Saturday and then rival Purdue (4-6) the next week to have a postseason shot. There's no sense dwelling on the obvious.
For another thing, that talk distracts from the big picture, which is actually the little picture as it pertains to little things matter starting with daily improvement.
What? You were expecting the secret to eternal youth?
“We have concentrated on the process that we have to get better every day,” Lynch said. “Sometimes when you talk about a game being a must-win, everything you work for goes out the window and you get away from what you've done pretty well.”
What IU has done well is stay competitive. It has pushed Northwestern, Iowa and Wisconsin to the limit the last three weeks and just because it lost to all three doesn't diminish the significance.
“We have to play the next play,” Lynch said. “That is the approach we are taking. One of the things that is important with this team is the effort and energy we have been playing with. That has to be the norm every play, every snap, every half. You only get so many opportunities to play this game so you'd better take advantage of them.”
The Hoosiers haven't taken advantage of them when it comes to victories. Some might call it bad luck, but Lynch doesn't buy it.
“You have to execute to beat somebody,” he said. “Sometimes people will say the breaks are going against you, but you make your own breaks. You are playing against someone who is good and well coached. So it is a matter of making the plays.”
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Ben Chappell will never be confused with Ben Roethlisberger or even Trent Green, but the junior has become a solid Big Ten quarterback.
How solid? He made a run at conference offensive player of the week after completing 25-of-35 passes for 323 yards and three touchdowns against Wisconsin. It was his third career 300-yard passing game.
Chappell ranks second in the Big Ten in passing yards (2,377) and third in completion percentage (63.0).
“He's a gutsy kid,” Lynch said. “He is what you're looking for in a quarterback. He's one tough guy. He took some hits (against Wisconsin). He stood in there and made some key throws. He gets hit and keeps getting up.”
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The odds are not in IU's favor Saturday. It is 0-12 against Penn State.
The Nittany Lions are 48-13 since 2005, the nation's ninth-best record.
They have won 32 of their last 36 home games, although they did lose at home to Iowa and Ohio State this season.
However, the Hoosiers have lost by seven points or less to the Nittany Lions five times, including two of the last three meetings.
Penn State is anchored by a dominating defense.
It leads the Big Ten and ranks third nationally in scoring defense (10.8 points).
It is No. 1 in the conference in pass defense and No. 2 behind Ohio State in rushing defense and total defense.
“Penn State is one of the quality teams you see at the top of the Big Ten,” Lynch said. “The characteristic you see in Ohio State, Iowa and Penn State is that they play great defense. Penn State's defense is similar to Ohio State and Iowa in that they don't give up many points and yards. You have to earn everything you get.”