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Week 12 Opponent Scouting Report: Penn State

The Scarlet Knights are playing a meaningful game going into Thanksgiving.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 13 Michigan at Penn State Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Waking up this morning I was greeted on the internet with a dizzying array of bowl possibilities for out intrepid Scarlet Knights. Arizona, Florida, California, the Bronx; who knows? But there is business to be taken care of and it begins this Saturday in Happy Valley.

Happy Valley has been anything but happy for the Scarlet Knights as the last time Rutgers won in State College was 1988. Rutgers has lost fourteen straight games to Penn State and the prognosticators have installed the Scarlet Knights as an 18-point underdog this Saturday.

In scouting Penn State, let us start with the obvious. The Nittany Lions are faster, stronger and have appreciably more depth than the Scarlet Knights. That being said, Penn State has elite recruits and players on their team for certain. But a closer look reveals that these elite level players are not spread across the starting line-up. The offensive line is neither elite nor deep. If you look at the skill positions at wide-receiver and the secondary, Penn State is loaded. The defensive front seven, not so much.

The Nittany Lions are coming off a loss to Michigan at home and have now lost four of their last five games. They have a quarterback in Sean Clifford who can escape the pocket and is also a capable passer.

The Nittany Lions have had a precipitous drop since starting the season at 5-0 and being ranked as high as the number four team in the country. Lately, it has been a different narrative with their lone victory in the past month plus coming against Maryland. They have been out-gained by an average of fifty yards over the five-game stretch, which includes losses to Iowa, Illinois, Ohio State and Michigan and a win at Maryland.

It would be a mistake to count Penn State out. Looking at the numbers, Rutgers is averaging a little over twenty-three points a game while Penn State is averaging twenty-six points a game. Looking at cumulative passing yards, the Scarlet Knights are averaging 180-yards per game while Penn State is averaging 272-yards per game. However, looking at yardage on the ground, Rutgers is averaging 146-yards per game while Penn State is averaging 107-yards per game.

Keyvone Lee leads the Nittany Lions running game and averages 4.9 yards per carry, but their most effective runner is quarterback Sean Clifford. Johan Dotson leads the receivers corp. Dotson has been named a Biletnikoff Award semifinalist, awarded to the most outstanding overall receiver, regardless of position, at the FBS level. Dotson has been the Nittany Lions most dangerous offensive weapon with 80 catches for 993 yards and ten touchdowns.

On defense, Penn State is still Penn State. The Nittany Lions are a top-ten scoring defense in the country. They effectively shut down the Michigan running attack, although the Wolverines were missing Blake Corum. Despite losing 21-17 for their fourth loss of the season, the Nittany Lions turned in another strong defensive showing, holding the No. 6 team in the country 15.22 points under its average output. For the most part, defensive coordinator Brent Pry’s group held the Wolverines’ offense in check. “It’s always great when a team emphasizes the run game, and we make them pass,” safety Jaquan Brisker told the Daily Collegian. “That’s when we have to tighten up in the pass game. We wanted them to pass, and they just made a great play at a great time.”

News & Notes

  • The Scarlet Knights have not beat Penn State since 1988, losing the last 14 meetings.
  • It is Senior Day this Saturday at State College with potentially thirty seniors playing their last game at Beaver Stadium.
  • The weather forecast as of midweek calls for a clouds and temperatures in the low 40s.