Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Penn State Nittany Lions (-10, 45 o/u)
After a disastrous opening game that saw QB Christian Hackenberg get sacked ten times, the Penn State offensive line bounced back last week and kept their pivot clean in the pocket as the team earned its first win of the season (27-14 over Buffalo). The Nittany Lions (1-1, 1-0 Home) will now kick off their Big Ten schedule against Rutgers (1-1, 0-0 Away) at Beaver Stadium this Saturday (8:00 PM Eastern) with plenty still to prove.
Not only was Penn State able to keep Hackenberg upright, but the team also managed to establish some semblance of a run game; freshman RB Saquon Barkley racked up 115 yards and a major on 12 carries.
Even though the team failed to cover as 20.5-point favorites, head coach James Franklin saw a lot to like from the Week 2 performance.
“We protected our quarterback, moved the pocket, ran the ball,” Franklin told the Associated Press after the game. “I thought our defense had some momentum-changing plays with sacks and interceptions today and turnovers. So I thought at times we started to create an identity for this football team.”
The defense, which was projected to be the strength of the team from the get go, indeed looked good against Buffalo. It forced the Bulls into nine punts, one interception, and another turnover on downs. It also got to Buffalo QB Joe Licata three times.
The defense will likely face a stiffer test this weekend in the form of the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers ran up the score on Norfolk State (63-13) in Week 1 before falling to the Pac-12’s Washington State Cougars this past weekend (37-34).
The Knights’ defense was porous against Washington State, surrendering 559 total yards, including a ten-play, 90-yard TD drive that put the Cougars on top for good with just 13 seconds on the clock.
The offense held its own, piling up 402 yards, but shot itself in the foot three times with turnovers, which proved to be the difference in the game. Starting QB Chris Laviano completed 23 of 29 passes for 204 yards, one TD, and one pick.
There was some question about who would start at QB for Rutgers this weekend, but head coach Kyle Flood quickly put any debate to bed: “Laviano will be the starting quarterback this weekend [over fellow sophomore Hayden Rettig],” Flood told True Jersey.
Unfortunately for Laviano, he won’t have star receiver Leonte Carroo to lean on. Carroo was suspended indefinitely after he was allegedly involved in a fight with a fan after last week’s game.
Last year, Penn State downed Rutgers in a low scoring affair (13-10), but Rutgers covered as 3.5-point home underdogs. It should be a different story this year. Without Carroo, Rutgers is going to struggle to move the ball against a solid Penn State defense. With the offense finally starting to click, take the Nittany’s and lay the points this week.
Pick: Penn State (-10).
(Photo credit: Ben Stanfield (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode]. Photo has been cropped.)