RU faithful, it is time to do a follow up article on my last “Path to a bowl game” and a look at the remaining schedule.
Before we go down that path, I want to be respectful to all the RU fans that believe in superstitions. Yes, there are quite a few of you that have expressed concern that examining what it would take to get to a bowl will undermine the team’s chances. News flash for all the fans; coaches coach, players play, and fans should be in the stands (if you are within reasonable driving distance come support the team as the 12 man).
To avoid the dreaded HEX, for those that are weary of black cats crossing your path, stepping on street cracks, wearing the number 13 or stopping on the 13th floor in an elevator, worried about what is truly being hidden in Area 54, crossing under an extended latter, cracking a mirror, full moon and werewolves or saying Beetle Juice 5 times, please proceed with caution if you chose to read further.
What can we make of this RU team?
After 10 games, we learned the Scarlet Knights can win its out of conference games and play one of the elite teams tough, even on the road. They can get blown out by, on paper, lesser opponents. They can get blown out by superior teams. RU can beat a team that beat blue blood. And they can blow out an opponent on the road who was a 7-point favorite.
We have also learned the defense and special teams have been Schiano like units. At times, injuries challenge the depth of the team (as usual). The offense continues to struggle. When the defense can create turnovers, it puts the team in a winning position. There is a plethora of young talent on the team, which is something that could not be said under the Chris Ash era.
Rutgers at Penn State 11/20
Maryland at Rutgers 11/27
Rutgers vs. PSU outlook: The Nittany Lions started the season 5-0 and have been on a precarious slide going 1-4 over the next 5 games. More interesting to note PSU is 4-2 at home after losing the last two home games to Illinois in a 9 OT 20-18, a not so slug fest, and to 6th ranked Michigan 21-17. In between, they had a convincing win at Maryland on the road 31-14 and a gutsy performance at the Shoe in a loss to 4th ranked OSU 33-24, a game they could have won.
As previously shared, they are the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde team of the Big Ten. Starting off strong and fading late in the season. The confines of Happy Valley have not been so rosy in 2021. When PSU is at it best, their passing game leads the way averaging 272 yards per game. They rely heavily on QB Sean Clifford who has 17 TDs on the season with only 6 interceptions. Rushing has traditionally been Penn State’s strength, however, uncharacteristically this year the Nittany Lions are averaging only 107 per game. They employ a back by committee rotation with Keyvone Lee Noah Cain and John Lovett. Lee had a season high 20 careers and 88 yards against Michigan and you can expect they will lean on him the rest of the way.
On defense it all depends really on the offense moving the ball and controlling the game clock. PSU defense has played tough in most games giving up 138 yards per game on the ground and 214 yards in the air. PSU coach James Franklin needs this game, as the Nittany Lion fans are losing patience. A loss to RU would certainly change Happy Valley into Death Valley. I am hard pressed to see PSU come out of this game with a loss though. I need this win to reach my 7-5 RU season win/loss prediction.
Maryland at RU:
This game will be highly competitive with two teams that seem on paper to be an equal match up. Maryland has some nice wins over West Virginia, Illinois, and a close win over Indiana 38-35. They really don’t have any shocking losses to either ranked or previously ranked foes Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan State, Iowa and Minnesota.
The Terps offense is at its best when Taulia Tagovailoa is chucking the ball and on his game. He averages 310 yards per game with 20 TDs and 11 interceptions. When was the last time RU had a QB with comparable stats? Maybe, Gary Nova? 7 of Taulia’s interceptions were in two games against Iowa (5) and OSU (2). In case you are wondering, he did torch MSU for 350 yards, PSU for 371 yards and Indiana for 417 yards. Leading receivers include Rakim Jarett (47 receptions, 638 yards, 5 TD), Chigoziem Okonkwo (40 receptions, 374 yards, 5 TD) and Dontay Demus Jr, 28 receptions, 507 yards, 3 TD). They have provided Tagovailoa with quality targets and with more than capable hands.
The Terrapins have struggled on defense, giving up 158 yards per game on the ground and allowing 258 passing yards. To be fair, RU has given up 154 yards a game on the ground, but have managed to limit their opponents to 218 yards passing per game. Expect Schiano and company to rise to the occasion and clinch bowl eligibility for the first time since 2014.
Why you should get ready to reserve your Bowl Tickets:
The Scarlet knights have already demonstrated improvement year of year by reaching 5 wins and have a chance for 7 and a bowl. The RU youth movement continues with promising contributions including Tyreem Powell,Kyonte Hamilton Mohammed Toure, Robert Longerbeam and Max Melton on defense. On offense, Ireland Brown, Hollin Pierce Troy Rainey have made strides on the offensive line and the QB heir apparent Gavin Wimsatt is getting opportunities. The Indiana highlighted how so many younger players are contributing to this team.
Why you should focus on the Honey Do list you have been avoiding:
The offensive is still stuck in neutral with a banged-up Noah Vedral taking snaps. Yes, Vedral plays with heart, determination, and passion. It is hard not to admire his blue-collar work ethic and grit. Last weekend’s decisive victory was a result of the young RU defensive creating six turnovers and setting the offense up with great field position. The trouble is Vedral is slow to identify open receivers, is challenged in delivering the deep ball accurately and relies way too much on his legs, which is in part why he is often playing injured. Some point to the offensive line as the culprit to Vedral’s challenges, however, a few down field completions take the pressure off the offensive line, as the opposing defensive cannot stack the box with 8 defenders.
The Scarlet Knights are in great position to get to their first bowl since 2014. Enjoy the fact we are still relevant 10 games into the season and we are still talking football.
RU fans put your superstitions and concerns of bad mojo in the rearview mirror and let’s get ready to RUUUUUMMMMMBBBBBLLLLEEEE!
Bring on the Dogs and share your thoughts…….See you in the Blue Lot!