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What you need to know: Penn State V. Rutgers
Each week, we’ll tell you what to expect, what to keep an eye on, and when and where you can catch the Nittany Lions on fall Saturdays this season.
Need-To-Know Details: at Rutgers, 8 p.m. kickoff, broadcast on BTN.
Records: Penn State (8-2, 6-1 Big Ten), Rutgers (2-8, 0-7 Big Ten).
Venue: High Point Solutions Stadium, capacity 52,454.
Weather Forecast (via AccuWeather): During the day, expect a high of 63 degrees with a 30 percent chance of precipitation. The temperature will drop to around 43 by nighttime, though it’ll feel a few degrees warmer. There should be plenty of clouds during the game, with a 56 chance of rain.
The Overview: It’s possible — possible — that Penn State will earn a trip to the Big Ten Championship in Indianapolis in a few weeks, and even a spot in the College Football Playoff. Just take a moment and let that sink in. The Nittany Lions have reeled off six consecutive Big Ten wins in one season, which they previously hadn’t done since 1994. The Lions finished that season undefeated and with a No. 2 national ranking after thumping Oregon in the Rose Bowl. Penn State finishes the regular season against Rutgers and Michigan State, two teams who don’t have anything tangible to play for this season. Even if Rutgers wants to somewhat salvage their season by bumping Penn State out of the Big Ten title conversation, it might not matter. The Lions enjoy a talent disparity, and it’s difficult to imagine Rutgers keeping up with Penn State, offensively. In addition to going winless in conference play this season, Rutgers has also been outscored 185-0 by Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State.
The Line: Penn State –24.5
All-Time Series: Penn State leads 24-2.
Last Time They Met (2015): Penn State collected a 28-3 victory at Beaver Stadium.
Penn State Wins If: The offense continues to capitalize on opportunities. The Lions struggled to score for long stretches against Indiana, though scored two touchdowns off of five turnovers, and also didn’t settle for field goals against the Hoosiers when in the red zone. Those two factors, just as much as anything else, catapulted Penn State past Indiana and extended the Lions’ winning streak to six games. The Lions don’t have to score in bunches to win Saturday, just follow through on the inevitable opportunities that’ll come against a struggling Rutgers squad.
Rutgers Wins If: The Scarlet Knights create a perfect storm. You can’t say the Knights will win if they shut down Barkley, because Indiana lost while holding Barkley to only 58 yards last week. The Lions have found a different way to win during their current six-game winning streak, and as cliché as that sounds, that means that there isn’t a clear formula to defeating the Lions. For Rutgers to have a chance, the Knights have to flip the field, and/or score a special teams or defensive touchdown. Block a kick, disrupt Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley, and find a way to covert on third down. That’s a lot, but a lot has to happen to upend a Top-10 team, which Penn State has transformed into.
Count On: The Lions playing well in the final 30 minutes. Penn State continues to thrive in the second half of games this season, outscoring opponents 215-105, including overtime.
Keep An Eye On (again): DaeSean Hamilton possibly scoring a touchdown and/or eclipsing 100 receiving yards. After saying keep an eye on him against Indiana, the receiver emerged in Saturday’s victory, catching three passes for 85 yards after struggling through parts of the season. Hamilton has the potential to be a game-changing player for the Lions on Saturday night.
Trivia Tidbit of The Week: Penn State has won nine consecutive games in this series, and has lost to Rutgers only once in nearly the last century. The Knights claimed a 26-3 victory in 1918 at State College*.
Saquon Barkley record book watch: Indiana did a great job of bottling up Barkley during Saturday’s contest, with the sophomore finishing with 58 yards on 33 carries. He still stands 15th all-time, remaining one spot behind Charlie Pittman.
**Season Record: 8-2
**Season Record Against the Spread: 7-2-1
Prediction: Penn State 37, Rutgers 21
*To explain this distinction, it’s not just to be picky. Since University Park became designated with its own zip code in the 1950s, all campus events actually take place at University Park, not State College. But back in 1918, the dateline would’ve read State College.
**HappyValley.com season predictions
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