#8 Penn State Nittany Lions vs. Rutgers Scarlet Knights
The Records: Penn State (8-2, 6-1 Big Ten); Rutgers (2-8, 0-7 Big Ten)
The Head Coaches: Penn State: James Franklin, third season, 46-29 overall, 22-14 at Penn State; Rutgers: Chris Ash, 2-8 record at Rutgers and overall.
The Game: Penn State hits the road for its penultimate regular-season conference match-up against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights on Saturday night at 8:00 p.m.
The Scarlet Knights come into Saturday night’s game boasting a seven-game losing streak and have yet to win a game since September. Last Saturday, Michigan State earned its first Big Ten victory with a 49-point drubbing of Rutgers in East Lansing, as the Scarlet Knights fell to 0-7 in conference play.
Chris Ash has struggled mightily in his first year as head coach at Rutgers as the team continues to lack success on the football field since joining the Big Ten conference prior to the 2014 season. Ash’s team has been shutout by three Big Ten teams this year (Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State) and has given up an average of 38-points per game.
The Scarlet Knights are led by quarterback Chris Laviano and running back Robert Martin, both of whom have been playmakers. Laviano has thrown for 748 yards and five touchdowns while only throwing two interceptions on the season. Martin leads the way for a Rutgers rushing game that averages 155.3 yards on the ground per game.
Defensively, the Scarlet Knights have been abysmal the entire season; they’ve given up 40 or more points on four separate occasions. The defense gives up an average of 444.5 yards per game with a majority of those yards coming from the opposing rushing attack where opponents have averaged 251.3 yards per game.
Last year, Penn State running back Saquon Barkley torched Rutgers’ defense for 195 yards on 21 rushing attempts for two touchdowns as Penn State beat the Scarlet Knights 28-3 at Beaver Stadium. The lack of success against opposing runners bodes well for Barkley and Nittany Lions, who will look to continue their winning ways.
Barkley and the rushing attack struggled last weekend against Indiana, but Penn State squeaked out a victory against the Hoosiers. The Nittany Lions must look to get their running game established early and often against Rutgers to quiet what should be a loud crowd for the Scarlet Knights.
Getting Barkley involved as both a rusher and receiver is a good sign for an offense coming into Saturday’s game averaging 49.3 points in its last three games. Quarterback Trace McSorley continues to light up opposing secondaries; the redshirt-sophomore is averaging 239 yards through the air this season.
Penn State will need to put points up early in hopes of scoring enough that the team can pull its starters later. The key for the Nittany Lions moving forward will be to stay healthy and avoid injuries at all cost as their offensive line has been the most recent position group decimated by injury. Another injury to a member of the offensive line would be detrimental to Penn State’s hopes of capturing the Big Ten championship.
Time: 8:00 p.m. EST
Location: High Point Solutions Stadium; Piscataway, N.J.
TV/Radio: BTN/Penn State Radio Network
Prugar’s Prediction: Penn State, 45-7
Image credit: Gene J. Puskar/AP