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Rutgers vs. Penn State: Complete Opponent Preview

Rutgers v Penn State Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Rutgers is home for the final time in 2016, taking on the Nittany Lions of Penn State University. This is quite a different environment and feeling than the last time they came on campus in 2014. In that game, Rutgers held on to a lead that was lost, along with the game, in the final minutes. This season, Rutgers is winless in Big Ten play, and going up against a resurgent PSU squad that took down the Buckeyes, Hawkeyes, and Hoosiers over the last month. Rutgers is coming off yet another total collapse on both sides of the ball, in a 49-0 rout at the hands of a Michigan State team that is now 3-7 in 2017. Let’s take a closer look at this week’s opposition:

Brief Overview

Ranking: 9/10, to view click here

Head Coach: James Franklin (46-29 overall, 22-14 at PSU, third season at PSU)

2016 Record: 8-2 (6-1)

Current Streak: W6

SB Nation Site: Black Shoes Diaries

Is Coach Franklin concerned that his team may overlook at 2-8 Rutgers squad? Well, perhaps this will provide an answer:

Additionally, he is hoping to get a lot of support into High Point Solutions Stadium, while still focusing on the game:

One Big Thing

Penn State actually has a shot at the Big Ten crown this year, and as you can see from the tweets above, are working to ensure that the focus remains on Rutgers. If they win out against Rutgers and Michigan State, a loss by Michigan next week to Ohio State would put them in the Big Ten Championship game on December 3.

Opponent Depth Chart

Key Offensive Information

Last week, Penn State had a banged up offensive line, but the depth of their team was demonstrated in their win over Indiana. Left tackle Paris Palmer was taken out of the game after the Nittany Lions’ initial offensive drive. There was a shuffle of personnel where their left guard Bates was moved to fill in for Palmer, and a team of two backups filled in at left guard. Their injuries have local papers asking if Will Fries’ redshirt will be burned this week. Despite this, Trace McSorley and Saquon Barkley each had two touchdowns, with the talented QB McSorley passing for 332 yards. Penn State has been toughest in the second half all season.

Key Defensive Information

Their defense at times plays “lights out” on opponents. For example, against Iowa (who ran well against Michigan on Saturday with 164 yards), the defense held them to only 30 yards rushing on 26 attempts, an average of 1.2 yards per carry. This is a running game that had over 1,200 yards before walking into the Nittany Lions’ Den on November 5. How does Penn State perform at this level? They have a very deep defensive line, and it isn’t unusual for them to play 12 men through the course of the game, so all are able to stay fresher as the game progresses. That is a major factor in their ability to stay strong, and hold off offensive plays in the second half. As shown against Indiana, they are clicking in all facets of their play.

Why They Are Better Than Rutgers

This is (unfortunately) an easy one. Their strength on both sides of the ball have been demonstrated throughout the season. Coming into Piscataway, their only stumbles this season have been against a Pitt team that is vying for the ACC title, and Michigan, and we know what they look like, despite their own stumble last Saturday night in Iowa City. There is no question why Vegas opened the line as 25.5 point favorites, and has them picked right now as 27.5 to 28 point favorites.

Why Rutgers is Better than Them

Hoo, this is tough. Rutgers has two things that need to happen to win this game on Saturday. First, they need to stop the fumbles, penalties, and interceptions that have stalled good drives over the past three games, and play a near-perfect game. Secondly, Penn State needs to be looking beyond this game, and dreaming of glory in the B1G Championship in Lucas Oil Stadium on December 3. Let’s catch them dreaming Saturday night!