After finally picking up its first win of the 2020 season, the Penn State Nittany Lions are looking for more. James Franklin's team heads east to face the Rutger Scarlet Knights in Big Ten action this weekend. On the other sideline, Greg Schiano is hoping to have a few more tricks up his sleeve to guide his Rutgers program to a rare victory over Penn State.
Penn State has won 13 consecutive games in the all-time series with Rutgers, with the Scarlet Knights last celebrating a win in 1988. The only other time Rutgers has defeated Penn State came in the very first meeting between the two schools, back in 1918. A win for Penn State would also be the 900th all-time victory for the Nittany Lions.
Penn State at Rutgers
Kickoff: Saturday, Dec. 5 at 12 p.m. ET
Spread: Penn State -11
When Penn State Has the Ball
Sean Clifford returned to the starting lineup for Penn State last week against Michigan, and he turned in his best all-around performance of the season. Clifford protected the football and was able to make some plays on the ground. Jahan Dotson had been the best receiving option for Penn State since the loss of tight end Pat Freiermuth, and he still is. But Parker Washington has started to step up to make some plays as well.
Running back Devyn Ford will be available this week, according to James Franklin. Ford missed last week's game at Michigan while away from the program to be with his family. That gave Keyvone Lee a chance to step up and be the main back, and all he did was rush for 134 yards and a touchdown to earn Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors. Penn State's offense should be able to have its biggest game yet. Rutgers is allowing a Big Ten-worst 35.7 points per game this season. But Rutgers also is leading the Big Ten in forced fumbles, so Penn State's young running backs and Clifford must continue to hold on to the football.
When Rutgers Has the Ball
After missing last week's win at Purdue, Rutgers starting quarterback Noah Vedral is expected by head coach Greg Schiano to be back in the starting lineup. That should be good news for the Scarlet Knights considering his most recent performance against Michigan. Vedral passed for 281 yards and three touchdowns in Rutgers' overtime loss to the Wolverines. Penn State's defense has been vulnerable this season, so Vedral could find some cracks to work with to keep Rutgers in the mix.
Schiano is not afraid to throw out some trick plays too, and the entire offense has been much more functional this season. After sitting at the bottom in yards per game in the Big Ten last season with 273.1 yards per game, Rutgers is now averaging 368.7 yards per game. That is good for just 10th in the Big Ten but is a significant improvement for the program.
It may be unwise to suggest one win has cured Penn State's flaws. But the schedule is about as favorable as it gets for the rest of the season for the Nittany Lions. Historically, Penn State has dominated Rutgers even in leaner years. That may prove to be the case once again, but this should be a game that requires the Nittany Lions' defense to be on their toes. But Penn State's offense should be competent enough after a confidence boost last week to put up enough points to get out of Jersey with a win.
Prediction: Penn State 38, Rutgers 23
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