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Rutgers Scarlet Knights vs. Penn State Nittany Lions Preview and Prediction

James Franklin

James Franklin

Rutgers gave Penn State all it could handle in the first Big Ten game played in Rutgers program history last season. Plenty has changed since Penn State visited and left New Jersey with a nailbiter of a win last September. This year Penn State plays host to the Scarlet Knights, but Rutgers will be without head coach Kyle Flood and top wide receiver Leonte Carroo and is coming off a home loss to Washington State. Can Penn State send their new division and regional rivals home with another reason to be feeling down?

Rutgers at Penn State

Kickoff: 8:00 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: Big Ten Network

Spread: Penn State -9

Three Things to Watch

1. What is the mindset of Rutgers?

This week Rutgers will be entering rare territory with the head coach not calling the shots. Kyle Flood will serve the first game of his three-game suspension this weekend, which may lead you to wonder just how Rutgers moves forward. Flood was still able to help prepare the team for the game, but it will be assistant head coach and running backs coach Norries Wilson serving as the interim head coach Saturday night. The former head coach of Columbia is the only coach on the staff with previous head coaching experience. No matter the coach, Rutgers wants to beat Penn State at any cost. The question is how much do the off-field distractions begin to impact Rutgers in the primetime atmosphere of Beaver Stadium?

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2. Janarion Grant takes on increased role at receiver for Rutgers

Flood is not the only Scarlet Knight missing the game due to a suspension. Earlier in the week Rutgers announced the suspension of wide receiver Leonte Carroo, one of the bets receivers in the Big Ten. With Carroo out of the mix, that puts a bit more on the shoulders of junior receiver Janarion Grant, who has also been excellent on special teams so far. Grant is the second-leading receiver for Rutgers this season, with 71 receptions on six catches. Matt Flanagan, a sophomore, has a pair of touchdowns and could see more passes thrown his way as well.

3. Penn State still has some offensive concerns to play through

Another week, another week of hope the offensive line is coming together. After yielding 10 sacks against Temple in the season opener, Penn State's offensive line did not give up a sack against a far less intimidating and physical Buffalo defense. But there is still room to improve on the line for the Nittany Lions. Christian Hackenberg continues to feel pressure a tad too often for comfort if you are a Penn State fan. considering the shallow depth in the secondary for Rutgers, this could be a good opportunity to let Penn State's receivers make some plays.

Final Analysis

With Rutgers shuffling into Beaver Stadium without a head coach, its top wide receiver and already having dismissed a handful of players from the team, Rutgers looks prime for a beatdown if Penn State can show any consistency on offense. Getting off to a fast start should be key for Penn State, just as they did against Temple in Week 1. This game could be an ugly one, just as it was last season, but if Penn State can make some plays in the first half it may be able to break the will of this Rutgers team in the Big Ten opener.

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Prediction: Penn State 23, Rutgers 13

— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. McGuire also writes for and hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.