Football Preview: Rutgers
Travis Sutton, Jesse Finver, Brian McLaughin and Will Dessautelle look at the Big Ten matchup between Penn State and Rutgers. Kickoff is set for 8:00 and you can listen on ComRadio.
The Penn State Nittany Lions (8-2, 6-1 Big Ten) climbed the AP ranks to ninth with their fourth quarter resilience against the Indiana Hoosiers (5-5, 3-4 Big Ten). Penn State’s 45-31 victory over Indiana and Iowa’s crucial upset over the Michigan Wolverines put them in prime position to continue their campaign over the rest of the Big Ten and Bowl contention. With a possibility at the New Year’s Six, Penn State’s Saturday matchup against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (2-8, 0-7 Big Ten) should prove to be another notch in their victorious belt.
Although the Scarlet Knights find themselves at the bottom of the Big Ten’s heap, fans should expect an exciting atmosphere in High Point Solutions Stadium. The last time the Nittany Lions visited New Jersey they just barely cemented a 13-10 victory over the opposition in 2014. The Scarlet Knights want a rivalry, while the Nittany Lions want to continue their six-game winning streak.
While Penn State rides their six-game winning streak into this week’s primetime showdown, Rutgers find themselves on the losing side with a seven-game losing streak; they were demolished against the Ohio State Buckeyes and Michigan Wolverines, which are the other two teams looking to cement their place atop the Big Ten East Division throne.
Although the Nittany Lions’ showing against the Hoosiers was inconsistent and lopsided with two McSorley interceptions, Barkley’s uncharacteristic 60 yards and the offensive line’s three sacks, the Blue and White once again faced adversity and proved their resilience in their victorious fourth quarter.
Fans should expect Barkley to redeem himself against a defense that is ranked 123rd for their run defense and allows 5.7 yards per carry. Rutgers has allowed about 261 rushing yards per game. Although Barkley scored two touchdowns last Saturday, he will look to have a career day after his dismal 60-yard performance.
While McSorley and company failed to capitalize, the Nittany Lions’ defense had a field day with forcing the Hoosiers into turnovers. Brandon Bell’s strip sack of the Hoosiers’ quarterback Richard Lagow that led to Torrence Brown’s fumble recovery and touchdown sealed the game and spoke volumes to the importance of Bell’s presence at linebacker for the Nittany Lions. A defensive squad that can create ample opportunities for turnovers and offensive exploitation is dangerous in game planning and the structuring of an offensive scheme.
With the rankings and possibilities at prime bowl appearances, Penn State needs to focus on their weaknesses and develop a game plan for drastically better competition. They need to continue their recent success on first drives; Penn State scored a touchdown on their first offensive drives in four of the last five games. While their fourth quarter resiliency and momentum prove crucial to their current success, they need to create momentum and a formidable stance throughout the entire 60 minutes, especially against high-caliber opponents.
Although the Nittany Lions’ showdown against the Scarlet Knights is theirs to lose, the opposition should focus on exploiting their weak offensive line that has allowed 20 sacks on the season. In the beginning of the season fans saw the injury bug infiltrate Linebacker U, but now the Nittany Lions are witnessing a depleted offensive line try to maintain any formidability, especially since they have lost Andrew Nelson, Brendan Mahon, Connor McGovern and Paris Palmer. Palmer suffered a season-ending injury last week against the Hoosiers. Will the next man-up help the Nittany Lions continue their climb of the rankings?
If Rutgers can exploit Penn State’s offensive line and improve their own turnover miscues, then they have a chance to make Saturday an intriguing contest.
The Penn State Nittany Lions continue their road campaign this Saturday under the lights against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at High Point Solutions Stadium.
Madeleine Balestrier is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact her, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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