Staff Predictions: Penn State vs. Rutgers

Penn State football is gearing up for a prime-time, Striped-Out matchup with Rutgers at 8 p.m. on Saturday. The 1-1 Scarlet Knights, riddled with injuries and suspensions (including their head coach), are limping into the game following a loss to Washington State, while the 1-1 Nittany Lions sent Buffalo packing with a 27-14 win.

Our staff almost unanimously agrees: Rutgers is missing too many key parts to compete with Penn State, and the Nittany Lions should find themselves over .500 when the game’s over.

Doug Leeson (season record 1-1): Penn State 24, Rutgers 10

If you asked me last week, I would’ve said Rutgers would win. The Scarlet Knights started their season off by hanging 63 on Norfolk State while Penn State got almost tripled-up by Temple. Penn State’s win over Buffalo was… kinda convincing, other than the fact that it came against Buffalo. I’m still not all-in on this team, and I won’t forget that game in Philly for a long time.

Still, this game should come down to the fact that Penn State’s head coach will serve in that capacity on Saturday while Rutgers’ got #chopped. Without Leonte Carroo, Rutgers will have a lot of trouble finding the end zone. Penn State will win comfortably, and this time it won’t need five interceptions from Champagne Gary Nova to do it.

Kaitlyn Dividock (season record 1-0): Penn State 27, Rutgers 13

This really isn’t a great week for Rutgers to play a football game at all, let alone one in front of the Penn State’s proud #107kStrong. With the slew of injuries and suspensions Rutgers is facing, it’ll be tough for the team to find anything to rally around – especially with it coming off a tough loss to Washington State last weekend, not to mention that its sideline will be a little emptier without its head coach, Kyle Flood. The only few things that will help Rutgers pull off a win are the continuing problems Penn State keeps bringing on itself. If that defense manages to take advantage of the offensive line and put significant pressure on Christian Hackenberg, we’re looking at a solid chance of a Scarlet Knight victory. Hackenberg’s passing game has also been sub-par (not that it’s all his fault). With Rutgers coming into this game with Washington State’s passing attack fresh in its memory, Penn State will seem like it’s moving in slow motion. The fact that Rutgers has averaged ten penalties a game definitely won’t help its chance at success, though.

On the Penn State side of things, what the Nittany Lions can breathe easy about is the fact that even though their o-line is still a little shaky, Rutgers’ defense hasn’t caused significant mistakes to any team this year. The offensive line is also coming off a week where it didn’t let Hackenberg get sacked once – an absolute 180-degree turnaround from its performance at Temple. Penn State is also establishing a solid running game, with backs Akeel Lynch and Saquon Barkley having impressive showings in back-to-back weeks. Defensively, this team will again be solid. If Carl Nassib keeps playing the way he is, Rutgers will have a lot of trouble moving the ball at all.

Ultimately, Rutgers will try to rally and it’ll succeed at times, but it has too many personal losses to pull off a victory in Happy Valley. Penn State won’t have a pretty win in front of its Stripe Out crowd, but it’s going to be a win, and that’s all that matters.

Ethan Kasales (season record 1-0): Penn State 30, Rutgers 16

Penn State picked up an important win last weekend against Buffalo. It wasn’t pretty, and the Nittany Lions still have a ways to go on offense, but there were a fair amount of positive developments as well. I fully expect James Franklin’s squad to be amped up for this Saturday night’s Stripe Out.
Rutgers, which will be without Head Coach Kyle Flood as he serves the first of his three-game suspension, has had this game circled on his team’s calendar for quite some time. But, don’t let the pre-kickoff shenanigans fool you. The Scarlet Knights aren’t rival material (see: 23-2 all-time series record). Despite the importance of this contest to Penn State’s fortunes this fall, I think the passing game is finally primed for a big performance against a lackluster Rutgers secondary that has been plagued by injuries and suspensions thus far.
No matter what, border tensions will certainly be running high Saturday night. Watch for true freshman running back Saquon Barkley to be extra motivated following his breakout debut. Barkley, a one-time Scarlet Knight commit, looks to continue on the torrid trajectory he showcased in week two. On defense, I expect a second consecutive dominant outing from standout defensive tackle Austin Johnson, who calls Galloway, N.J. home.

Matt Coleman (season record 1-0): Rutgers 17, Penn State 13

This won’t be very popular. Even with all of the suspensions, Rutgers will beat Penn State.

This will a very low scoring affair much like it was last year. Penn State’s offense, although showing some promise, hasn’t shown much of anything this season. True freshman Saquon Barkley broke out last week, but it will be difficult to repeat that performance, especially for a true freshman. Rutgers’ defense is hurting. However, I don’t believe this is the week for the offense to find its rhythm. I still need to see one more solid week before they’ve proved themselves. The defense, however, isn’t about to let a team like Rutgers walk all over it. The defense will come up with a few stops, but ultimately won’t be able to stop every drive in which Rutgers starts near midfield. Penn State’s below-average punting and Rutgers’ top-notch blocking and return game spell a lethal combo for the Nittany Lions.

A big focus this week in practice has been punting for Penn State. Daniel Pasquariello has punted 12 times this year, and has shown little consistency in hang time, distance, and location. With the offense performing as it is, Penn State will undoubtedly punt a few times this Saturday. If Daniel Pasquariello is able to keep the ball away from Rutgers’ star return man Janarion Grant, while also pinning Rutgers deep within its own end, the game will go well for the Nittany Lions. It’s a difficult task to do, and I don’t think he will be able to do it. Grant won’t have the game he had last week (scoring on a kick return and a punt return), but he’s not going to slow down much.

This game will come down to field position. If Pasquariello cannot make Rutgers start deep in its own end, Penn State’s defense won’t hold for long. The offense hasn’t proven much yet, which makes me draw the unfortunate conclusion of Rutgers defeating Penn State in the first-ever Stripe Out at Beaver Stadium.

Jacob Abrams (season record 1-1): Penn State 30, Rutgers 19

Penn State is going against a team that is falling apart at the wrong time. Coming into the prime time game of the week for the Big Ten, Rutgers will be without nine players and its head coach. Not only that, one of those players that’ll be absent is the team’s most prolific playmaker and could be lost for the season. This only makes the job for Penn State easier. 
This Nittany Lions team has been a question mark on offense since week one and it hasn’t looked like it’s significantly improved. Penn State took a long time to get going against Buffalo, and I’m afraid that’s what it’ll be like the entire season. However, I do think the Stripe Out game under the lights, 107k packed into Beaver Stadium, and the recent collapse of this Rutgers program will play out largely in Penn State’s favor. At least it should.
Penn State’s defense can still stand on its own, and I think this is the first week we see the offense finally bring to what we expected this season. Even though John Donovan is still the offensive coordinator, I believe that Penn State will be using Christian Hackenberg’s big arm to sling it deep more than we’ve seen so far. The loss of Rutgers’ starting safety and two of its cornerbacks will be too big of an opportunity to take advantage of. I expect Penn State to take the lead first and not let up on Rutgers en route to an easy win during the first-ever Stripe Out.

Ben Berkman (season record 1-1): Penn State 16, Rutgers 10

On paper, Penn State should dominate Rutgers. A Saturday night Stripe Out in a rocking Beaver Stadium, a Rutgers team that will enter Happy Valley missing more than a handful of players and a head coach, and the fact that the Scarlet Knights just lost to a Washington State team that fell to Portland State a week prior all suggest the Nittany Lions should roll.

But things rarely go as expected in Penn State sports. I anticipate an ugly, defensive, B1G battle that could feature more punts than points. Still, there’s really no way Penn State can lose this game. Rutgers, depleted and on the road, can hang tough, but they won’t leave State College with a W.

David Abruzzese (season record 1-1): Penn State 17, Rutgers 7

Facing its first Big Ten opponent of the season, Penn State’s matchup with Rutgers couldn’t come at a better time. The program is in a state of disarray, headlined by the indefinite suspension of leading receiver and NFL prospect Leonte Carroo, and three-game suspension of head coach Kyle Flood. The team is missing upwards of eight key players — including Darius Hamilton, undoubtedly the team’s most talented defensive lineman.

Expect to see sensational freshman Saquon Barkley receive an increased workload as he faces the school he originally committed to — especially after his breakout performance last weekend against Buffalo. Expect Christian Hackenberg to flip the switch against the depleted Rutgers secondary, protected by a line that seemingly gelled after a stunning sack-less afternoon against the Bulls.

If anything, Penn State can’t afford to fall to such a weak Rutgers team.

Patrick Koerbler (season record 0-0): Penn State 16, Rutgers 13

While Rutgers is in a state of flux, it’s still difficult to predict a win for this Penn State team. The Nittany Lions have major injury problems (granted Brandon Bell and Grant Haley should play), and concerns about the offensive play calling weren’t necessarily alleviated last week against Buffalo.

In my opinion, the key to the game is simple: Will John Donovan be aggressive or let Rutgers control the game? Temple’s defense has set up a blueprint. Stack the box, play press coverage, and bring linebackers on delayed blitzes to confuse the offensive line. They’ll put their corners one-on-one with little help underneath or over the top.

While it’s tough to be aggressive with a struggling offensive line that will possibly be without Andrew Nelson, Donovan will need to put his faith in Hackenberg, attack the middle of the field, and take some shots deep. The best way to beat an attacking defense is to attack it right back.

This game really could go either way. But in the end, I think Penn State pulls out a victory, albeit an ugly one.

Ben Rappaport (season record 1-1): Penn State 24, Rutgers 3

Penn State is entirely too good and too motivated to lose to Rutgers. Hackenberg thrives in home night games, and the offense is finally starting to click. With Franklin taking a more active role in the offensive play calling, Hackenberg and the rest of the offense has looked much cleaner and explosive.

More importantly, the defense is going to be the star of the show. With Leonte Carroo, Rutgers’ star wide out, having issues off the field, the Nittany Lion defense will have no trouble stopping the Scarlet Knight’s offense. Look for stand-out performances from breakout defensive players Carl Nassib and John Reid. Both are coming off strong showings against Buffalo and seem to be catching their strides within the Nittany Lion defense. Penn State is walking into this game with confidence. The players have been reading about all the shit talk that Rutgers fans have been spouting, and are looking forward to shutting everyone up. An angry and fired up Penn State team will roll past a depleted Rutgers team easily. It’s going to be a fun night for sure — at least for everyone wearing blue and white.

Cade Reed (season record: 1-0): Penn State 45, Rutgers 6

I’m ready for a blowout. I’ve been waiting for two weeks to see Penn State lay the hammer down on an inferior opponent and this should be it. Rutgers comes to Happy Valley this weekend in the midst of a perfect storm of suspensions and rumors. Over the past few weeks Rutgers has lost Head Coach Kyle Flood, star player Leonte Carroo, and numerous starters to a slew of violations and infractions, and as a Penn State fan I could not be happier. For anyone who says that they would like to beat a fully armed “team from New Jersey,” ask yourself how happy any Rutgers fan would have been to beat Penn State in any of the sanction years.

Penn State’s defense held strong last week and hopes to continue its success during the Stripe Out at Beaver Stadium. The offensive line showed good progression against Buffalo and should be able to duplicate a no sack performance against the depleted Rutgers defense.

The team will be motivated, the crowd will be great, and Rutgers will be Rutgers as the Nittany Lions humiliate the Scarlet Knights on national television. Book it.

What’s your prediction? Let us know in the comments below.

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