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Rutgers Football Game #7 Preview vs. Penn State

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The Scarlet Knights will welcome Penn State to town in a Week 7 battle.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 28 Rutgers at Purdue Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images via Getty Images

How To Watch, Stream & Listen

Penn State at Rutgers

Where: SHI Stadium, Piscataway, New Jersey

Kick-off: Saturday, December 5 at 12 PM ET

Weather: 47 degrees, cloudy with a 90% chance of rain, 15 mph winds

TV: FS1 with Mark Followill (play-by-play), Matt Millen (color), and Olivia Dekker (sideline)

Stream: FOX Sports App

Radio: RWJBarnabas Health Rutgers Sports Network (WCTC 1450-AM, WOR 710-AM, WENJ 97.3-FM, XM 207, Sirius 136) with Chris Carlin (play-by-play), Eric LeGrand, Ray Lucas, and Anthony Fucilli (sideline).

Current Spread: Penn State -11.5

Series History: Penn State leads, 28-2; last season Penn State defeated Rutgers 27-6.

SB Nation Penn State site: Black Shoe Diaries

Statistical Leaders

Rutgers

Passing: Noah Vedral - 111-for-173, 64.2%, 1,104 yards, 8 touchdowns, 8 interceptions

Rushing: Isaih Pacheco - 390 yards on 86 carries, 4.5 ypc, 2 touchdowns

Receiving: Bo Melton - 30 catches for 474 yards, 15.8 ypc, 5 touchdowns

Defense: Olakunle Fatukasi - 73 tackles, Mohamed Toure - 3 sacks, Toure, Tre Avery, Brendon White - 1 interception

Penn State

Passing: Sean Clifford - 104-for-180, 57.8%, 1,233 yards, 11 touchdowns, 8 interceptions

Rushing: Sean Clifford - 255 yards on 73 carries, 3.5 ypc, 2 touchdowns

Receiving: Jahan Dotson - 34 catches for 557 yards, 16.4 ypc, 6 touchdown

Defense: Ellis Brooks - 39 tackles, Shaka Toney - 4 sacks, Brandon Smith and Lamont Wade - 1 interception

What to watch for

This is certainly not the game we expected to see. Penn State was expected to be one of the best team’s in the nation and Ohio State’s biggest test in the conference. That notion quickly went out the window as they lost their first five games of the season.

The Nittany Lions were able to get in the win column last week against Michigan. The Scarlet Knights also picked up a victory in Week 6. Rutgers defeated Purdue 37-30 to improve their record to 2-4.

When Rutgers has the ball

Noah Vedral was unable to go against Purdue because of an unspecified injury. Artur Sitkowski got the start and, along with Johnny Langan, led Rutgers to victory. The Scarlet Knights finished with 412 yards of total offense against the Boilermakers.

Left tackle Raiqwon O’Neal was also sidelined against Purdue. The Scarlet Knights are hoping to get some key players back this week. Vedral is going to start when healthy, but we will certainly see Rutgers use a lot of players moving forward.

“I don’t want to overstep here but I think they’re going to be able to play — I don’t know how much,’’ Greg Schiano said Thursday. “But nothing is guaranteed. We’ll see how the rest of the week goes, how they feel. But I think we’re going to have to play several people. Hopefully both of them will get to play on Saturday but I think we’re going to have to do more than just them to get through the game.’’

It is not crazy to say that Rutgers is the most improved offense in the nation. Last season, the Scarlet Knights averaged 273.1 yards per game. In 2020, they have upped that number to 368.7. This is a testament to the job that has been done by Schiano, offensive coordinator Sean Gleeson, and receivers coach Tiquan Underwood.

The key to this game is the same as every week — take care of the football. Rutgers did not have a turnover against Purdue. Vedral has struggled with ball security this season but his last game out was his best. He lit up Michigan for 381 yards and three touchdowns in the overtime loss.

This is a Penn State defense that has struggled. They allowed just 17 points against Michigan but it was the first time all season they were able to hold their opponent under 30. Rutgers will have to take care of the ball and run it well to stick around in this one.

When Penn State has the ball

Penn State is banged up on the offensive end. Pat Freiermuth had season-ending surgery to repair an undisclosed injury suffered in Week 2 against Penn State. Journey Brown was the clear starter before the season but unfortunately, it was announced that he decided to move away from football after being diagnosed with a heart condition.

In need of a spark, Dotson has been able to step up and be the Nittany Lions’ best playmaker. Clifford returned to the lineup last week and turned in his best performance. He did not turn the ball over in this game while finishing with 163 yards through the air and 73 yards and a score on the ground.

Penn State will get Devyn Ford back this week after he missed the victory against Michigan. The Nittany Lions will look to finally get their run game going. Clifford is currently the leading rusher on the team.

If there is a time to create big plays ad light up the scoreboard, it is in this game. Rutgers is allowing a Big Ten worst 35.7 points per contest. On the other hand, the Scarlet Knights lead the conference in forced fumbles. Turnovers will be key for both sides. Penn State’s young backfield will have to hold onto the football when Rutgers tries to rip it away.

Can Rutgers win this game?

Yes. Who would have thought we could answer this way when the season began? But it will not be easy. Nothing is a given with Rutgers just yet. They enter the game as a double-digit underdog, which seems a bit high. This game will come down to which team avoids the big mistake. If the ball bounces the right way, Rutgers could steal this one.

Final thoughts

Sometimes one win can get a team going. That is what Rutgers must stop this week against Penn State. The Nittany Lions will look to continue any momentum built up from Week 5.

Come out and score first. Force a fumble. Rutgers must do something to get momentum on their side in the first quarter. This is a huge measuring stick game. That is a term we have used a lot this season but it is especially true this weekend. The name Penn State is huge but the team is not it’s usual self. This is an opportunity to take advantage if you are Rutgers.