YSU - For the Penguins to have a chance of winning this game, Kurt Hess has to become the quarterback he was in September. The last two weeks, the running game has been heavily relied on and Hess has had mid-range numbers (last week he passed for 147 yards on 14-of-22 passing). He's capable, we've seen it. It just now needs to happen.
ISU -Statistically, Hess has a clear advantage over Indiana State quarterback Mike Perish. The sophomore averages 139.4 yards per game and has thrown for 10 touchdowns. The Sycamores rank ninth in the Missouri Valley Conference in passing offense.
EDGE - YSU
YSU -Jamaine Cook is making the most of his last few games in a Penguin uniform. In the past two weeks, Cook has rushed for 316 yards and three touchdowns. Going into the finale, Cook is third in the conference in rushing, with 1,150 yards on the season and 14 touchdowns.
ISU -Ranked one spot ahead of Cook in rushing in the conference is Indiana State's Shakir Bell. The junior has rushed for 1,421 yards and scored 11 touchdowns. He's more speedy than Cook, but Cook has more power. This game could be won or lost in the running game.
EDGE - Even
YSU - With the running game being so relied upon the past few weeks, the receivers have been limited. But when they have been called upon, Hess does a great job of spreading the love. Will Shaw has 417 yards on the season, and next is Andrew Williams with 333. Two other receivers have caught for more than 200 yards, and two more have caught for more than 100.
ISU -Michael Mardis and Demory Lawshe are the two most used receivers in the Sycamore offense. Mardis has 30 catches for 360 yards and Lawshe has 25 catches for 321. The two have combined for seven touchdowns this season.
EDGE - YSU
YSU - Unfortunately for senior Andrew Radakovich, his career is over at YSU as he is unlikely to play this week. Kyle Bryant again gets the start and is now infused with this line. The line has allowed the Penguin running game plenty of room to run the last few weeks and didn't give up a sack last week. The Penguins now have the top-ranked rushing offense in the conference with 190.9 yards per game. That doesn't happen without a strong line.
ISU -The front five for Indiana State has allowed Bell to run wild over the MVFC. Total, the rushing offense of Indiana State is fourth in the conference, averaging 168.6 yards per game. The line has allowed 22 sacks this season.
EDGE - YSU
YSU - The good news:?The YSU defensive line is only allowing 98.4 rushing yards per game. The bad news:?They are facing one of the best backs in the conference in Bell. If the line plays like they have been the past few weeks, they will be able to contain him. Also, if the line can rattle the cage of the young quarterback, Perish, it could mean good things for the Penguins.
ISU -The Sycamores are allowing 127.3 yards per game on the ground. The Penguins are going to have to watch out for Conner Underwood. The freshman standout has 9.5 tackles for loss, six sacks and four quarterback hurries. The line has to really watch him and make sure Hess has time to do what he needs to do.
EDGE - Even
YSU -Teven Campbell led the team last week with 10 tackles and still leads the team. The linebackers will have a big job today - help the line contain Bell while making sure the Sycamores don't take advantage of a shaky YSU secondary. Being assignment sound will never be as important as it will be today.
ISU -Middle linebacker Aaron Archie leads the team with 116 tackles and 10 tackles for loss. On the weakside, Jacolby Washington has 99 tackles and two sacks. There is a reason the Sycamores are only allowing 13 points per game, and it has much to do with the linebacking corps.
EDGE - ISU
YSU -Just because last week YSU's opponent only put up 90 yards in the air doesn't mean all the problems are fixed in the secondary. And just because the Sycamores heavily rely on the run, doesn't mean the Penguins have the day off. The last time YSU went against a team with an elite runner (South Dakota State), the Penguin secondary allowed 351 yards to a team that could barely put up 150 a game. Hopefully, the lesson was learned.
ISU -The Sycamores are second in the conference in pass defense, so the YSU receivers have to play smart and run good routes and not cause mistakes. Also, Indiana State has picked off opposing quarterbacks 16 times this season. Hess has to play the smartest game of his year today.
EDGE - ISU
YSU - While there were no major special teams blunders last week, the unit has to be on point today, as this game could come down heavily to field position. If it comes down to a field-goal game, David Brown is 4 of 5 this year, only missing from 40-49 yards.
ISU - Indiana State's kicker Tanner Fritschle has been used heavily this season, connecting on 13 of 16 field goals, including a long of 48. Punter Lucas Hileman averages nearly 44 yards per punt, has pinned 19 inside the 20 and has 17 punts over 50 yards.
EDGE - ISU
This game could go so many ways, and all are realistic possibilities.
Scenario 1:?YSU comes to play like the team that faced off against Pitt, in a game that seems like it happened ages ago. That team was confident, mistake-free and not scared to whip out the big play when needed.
Scenario 2:?The Penguins pull a game that too many players and fans have seen before - get a lead on a solid team, but let off and end up losing in the second half.
Scenario 3:?The tough defense of Indiana State gets to Hess and things start falling a part at the seams. Think North Dakota State but not on that magnitude.
Scenario 4:?A good quality game between quality opponents that goes down to the wire.
My pick (and hope) is scenario four comes to play. Both teams have way too much riding on this game to not bring 110-percent to the field. I'm going to go with the home team on this one, but considering I listed four scenarios for this game, anything can happen.