Following a knee injury sustained during last week’s 34-9 win over the Purdue Boilermakers, defensive lineman Jordan Hill’s status for the Big Ten tilt looks doubtful. If Hill can’t go, it’s a severe blow to Penn State’s efforts in slowing Nebraska down. He’s responsible for 45 tackles (17 solo), 4 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, one interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
Long story short, he’d be a nice option to have in the Nittany Lions’ attempt to corral Taylor Martinez.
Arguably Penn State’s most effective defensive lineman, his absence would require linebackers Glenn Carson, Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti to pick up the slack. They’re an appropriate substitution considering Penn State is known as “Linebacker U,” but their increased workload obviously isn’t worth the sacrifice of Hill.
Through nine games, the Nittany Lions boast the No. 14 scoring defense in the nation, holding the opposition to just over 17 points per game. They contain the run fairly well allowing about 122.4 rushing yards per game (No. 25), but Nebraska offensive coordinator Tim Beck will likely work to exploit PSU’s mid-level pass defense, allowing almost 210.5 yards through the air per contest (No. 43).
Penn State’s linebackers will do everything in their power to make an impact this weekend as head coach Bill O’Brien is well aware of the Cardiac Corn’s susceptibility to turnovers. That said, if Hill’s not an option to help clog the middle, keep an eye out for some read option between the tackles similar to what helped Martinez help torch the Michigan State Spartans on the ground last week.
Brandon Cavanaugh is a college football columnist for Rant Sports and member of the Football Writers Association of America. Feel free to follow him on Twitter and join in on the conversation.