Call it a hunch. But I can see the Penn State team coming and playing great Saturday and blowing out Rutgers. The Nittany Lions were in desperate need of something — anything — to go their way after just about everything went wrong for a couple of months. Last week, something finally did go right, as PSU won its first game, 27-17 at Michigan.
The confidence boost of that win, I believe, will carry over to today and help Penn State roll over Rutgers with ease. We’ll see.
PSU: Sean Clifford played a clean game last week at Michigan, running and throwing well WITH NO TURNOVERS. If Clifford can avoid turnovers, he’s a good enough QB to lead the offense to a lot of production. The O-line played very well last week, a welcome sign for a group that has struggled this season. Pro Football Focus ranks PSU’s offensive line at just 39th in the country so far. The solid line play opened up running lanes for Keyvone Lee, who had an impressive day. We’ll see who gets the bulk of the carries today — Lee or Devyn Ford, who is expected to return after missing last week. Don’t be surprised if Ford, not Lee, returns to be the primary ball carrier if fully healthy.
Rutgers: The QB situation is cloudy, as starter Noah Vedral is coming back from an injury. Art Sitkowski led the team to a 37-30 win at Purdue last week. But Vedral is the better player, and Greg Schiano indicated this week that he expects both to be ready to play. My guess is he’ll go back to Vedral, who gives Rutgers a much better chance in this game than Sitkowski. Vedral had 381 yards passing two weeks ago in a triple-OT loss to Michigan. Isaih Pacheco has 390 yards rushing (4.5 per carry) as Rutgers’ top RB. Bo Melton is the top WR, with 30 catches for 474 yards.
Advantage: Penn State
PSU: Lions tackled a lot better last week and came up
with some big stops in short-yardage situations. In short, the defense looked like everyone expected it to look all season. If Vedral plays QB, he could give the PSU defense some trouble as he’s mobile and can find holes. He does have 8 INTs, though, so the defenders could have some opportunities for pickoffs and returns. We’ll see if PSU has more than three cornerbacks available today.
Rutgers: This is not a good defense. Purdue scored 30 last week in a loss, Michigan stormed back in the second half to force OT and win, and even Michigan State scored 38 on the Scarlet Knights. If Penn State’s offense can protect the ball, the Lions will have a chance to pile up a lot of yards and points.
Advantage: Penn State
PSU: Confidence is key. I think we’ll be seeing a much more confident Penn State team today, one that if it can get an early lead will be looking to pounce on the Scarlet Knights. I can see James Franklin turning his offense loose with a lot of deep shots against this bad Rutgers defense. And if PSU is in control, Franklin won’t be letting his foot off the gas. He would love a statement game where the Lions click on all cylinders.
Rutgers: Yes, Rutgers is playing better under Greg Schiano. He deserves a lot of credit for that. But let’s face it, even a depleted Penn State team has way, way more talent than this Rutgers team. Now, the Scarlet Knights also will be coming in with some confidence after winning on the road at Purdue last week. But they’re perhaps catching Penn State at a bad time as the Lions now could start looking more like the team we expected to see.
Penn State 38, Rutgers 16: I’m one of the few picking a blowout, but as I mentioned above, this is a hunch that PSU will come out confident and ready to make a statement.