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OTB Staff Predictions for Rutgers v. Penn State

Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

Bob Cancro: Do we really have to do this?  Yes, we do, damn it!  The team's playing and we're there with'em.  Okay, early line had RU getting seven.  Considering everything that is going on in Piscataway, that's not an overwhelming endorsement of the Nitts.   But that was before Flood's suspension.  I was wrong about Rettig getting into the game last week.  But I'm still sticking with the idea that he will play - more than you might expect.  I was disappointed with our running game; I think that gets better, at least enough to take pressure off our QB.  Speaking of our QB, I was told by two people that Laviano pulled his own facemask and got the penalty called.  Anybody else see that?  I didn't have us winning this game in our season opening predictions, but PSU ain't as good as they think they are (we aren't either) and I like the wounded animal mentality that we might have going in. I think it is a somewhat back-and-forth contest, with the Franklinites controlling it most of the way.  But the D-line comes through in the closing minutes with its third sack of Hack (or Hackensack, my hometown) and a fumble recovery.  Which leads to Paul James barreling in from the five to put Rutgers up....for good.  Rutgers 24-22

Garrett Stepien: It's funny how two weeks ago this game seemed like an easy win. Christian Hackenberg and the Penn State O-Line looked a mess after Temple sacked the Nittany Lions 10 times on their way to getting bounced out of Philly in their deflating season opener. That all changed after this past week. The face of the program was arrested and suspended indefinitely. The head coach, Kyle Flood, defied authority and violated compliance time after time after time on his way to a three-game suspension and $50,000 fine. Forget everything that's happened off the field. On the field, the Rutgers football team still needs to put itself back together following its 37-34 meltdown to Wazzu last week where the Cougars made the Scarlet Knights' young secondary look like a high school team late in the game after it initially held its ground earlier in the contest with its bend-but-don't-break defense. No one knows what Chris Laviano actually brings to the table following a first career start where the stats don't reflect his overall play. I initially thought Rutgers still might be able to pull this thing out on a heavy dose of Paul James, Josh Hicks and Robert Martin to overcome Leonte Carroo's absence and steal a win out of Happy Valley for some revenge. But now, I just can't see the combination of everything resulting in a win here. While Penn State doesn't excite in this game and is an extremely beatable team, Rutgers struggles to put anything together without its fourth-year head coach and team captain in a 20-13 loss.

Griffin Whitmer: At times, I have ridiculed for being too optimistic about the Rutgers football team. That won't be the case this week. I see a team missing their 2 best players, half their secondary dismissed from the team, a shaky QB going on the road against 100,000+ fans, and no head coach. Combine all of that and it creates a recipe for disaster, the same word that could potentially describe this season. It is crazy how just last week, I was predicting a blowout win against a Power-5 team and was prepared to pick Rutgers to win this game 24-10.  However, 1 domestic violence accusation and a head coach suspension later, I see them going home with a 16-6 loss. PLEASE PROVE ME WRONG, RUTGERS!

Ray Ransom: This may look like a hot mess at first glance, but I think this could turn into a great game; one for the ages. Penn State's strength? Defense. Rutgers' strength? Offense. Both teams bring solid special teams play with the potential for game changing momentum. Normally, I'd say that Rutgers is reeling and there's no way our boys can keep up the pace, on the road, in a hostile environment after the weeks they've endured. Yet, this is a rivalry game. As we've seen in the NFC East, the AL East, the Big Ten at large and the vicious throw downs with Seton Hall, once a rivalry game starts, the records, ratings, stars and prognostications go out the window. It's all about who wants it more. You tell me. Who wants this game more? The guys who just beat Buffalo by a few or the guys who have been beaten, battered and saw their beloved coach get suspended because he tried to help a player. Rutgers charges out of the gates like a legion of crazed crimson knights, resplendent in blood-spattered plate mail, lancing the heart of the lion and riding to glorious, glorious victory. Paul James limps into the end zone, diving over the pile on one good leg as a couple hundred thousand human beings scream their faces off. Rutgers 24, Penn State 21. Instant ESPN Classic.

Aaron Breitman: I know both teams are reeling in their own ways, but I think it will be a high energy, hard fought game.  I think Rutgers will bring everything they have and are highly motivated.  They have been talking about an "us against the world" attitude this week with all the controversy surrounding the program.  They will want to win for their coach, who in their eyes was only trying to help a player who was struggling academically. I wrote earlier this week, I think hitting the road and getting out of town for the first time all season, is exactly what this team needs.  Being in a hostile environment, they will either come together or fall apart.  They also are looking for payback from last year's bitter defeat.  Rutgers will need to play smart and stay focused to have a chance.  I think Norries Wilson will have this team loose and ready to play.  I see this being close the whole way and it coming down to one or two plays late in the game.  I think there is some truth that our season will end up going the way the outcome of this game goes. Ultimately, we will need a couple of big plays on special teams, combined with an effective pass rush and a consistently strong running game to win. I think Rutgers pulls the upset and wins with a late touchdown run, exacting revenge the same way in which Penn State won last season. Rutgers 24-20

Dave White: I fully expect Rutgers to come out fired up.  After a week of controversy, the team should be playing with an "us against the world"mentality.  And I expect Penn State to be ready for that.  These are two flawed teams, with Rutgers secondary damaged and Penn State struggling as well.  But here's the thing about being fired up because of a controversy and not just to play football--if Rutgers can't step on PSU's throats early, momentum runs out.  The mental exhaustion and distractions of the week can take over and drag a team down.  Rutgers has a very good chance to win tomorrow, but I still have little faith in the secondary and Laviano.  Expect a tight grind 'em out affair where Rutgers wears down late.  PSU 24 Rutgers 18

Scott Logan: I'm torn on this game, because I could see it going a number of ways. Maybe the team rallies for its embattled coach, or maybe the wheels fall off completely. All I know for sure is Rutgers will need to come out firing on all cylinders to have a chance at an upset in hostile territory. I think they will play with a chip on their shoulder, and are up for the challenge. Kemoko Turay and the previously-dormant Rutgers pass rush finally comes alive, and keeps Hackenburg somewhat at bay. Chris Laviano is able to limit mistakes, and keeps Rutgers in the game until the very end. Without Carroo, Andre Patton steps up and emerges as the go-to guy, with Carlton Agudosi finally using his size to become a legitimate red zone threat. In the game's final minutes, Paul James takes a pass out of the backfield all the way in for the go-ahead score. Rutgers never looks back. Rutgers 31, Penn State 25

Kelly Montagna: So far this season, Rutgers truly cannot get out of its own way. Between player arrests, injuries, and coach suspensions, it seems as though we've talked about everything regarding the program aside from the play on the field. Somehow, the remnants of this team have try to find a way to travel into Happy Valley and pull out a big win in the inaugural Stripe Out game. I think it will be a tough, grind it out game, but I just cannot fathom how Rutgers could put aside all of these off-the-field issues, highlighted by the loss of Carroo, who's production they will miss greatly. This may be the turning point of when everything catches up to the team, and I'm fearful dark days are ahead. PSU 21 Rutgers 10