Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Location: Piscataway, NJ
Home Stadium: High Point Solutions Stadium
Head Coach: Kyle Flood (as of 9/15/15, 9:00 a.m.) (4th season, 24-17 overall)
Players Suspended/Dismissed in the Last Two Weeks: 7
First Game: November 4, 1918 (Rutgers won 26-3)
Last Game: September 13, 2014 (Penn State won 13-10)
Overall: Penn State leads series 23-2 (.920)
Current Streak: Penn State has won 8 games in a row (Last Rutgers win: 1988)
Last Season (8-5, 3-5 B1G)
Led by the play of Gary Nova and Leonte Carroo and the play calling of Ralph Friedgen, Rutgers had a fairly successful debut season in the Big Ten. They managed to notch wins over Michigan and Maryland and capped the year with a 40-21 drubbing of North Carolina in the Quick Lane Bowl. What makes that 8-5 record more impressive is the fact that Rutgers was without star tailback Paul James for eight games; he tore ligaments in his knee against Navy in week four.
Nova graduated and Friedgen retired, leaving the Scarlet Knights with vacancies at QB and OC. Chris Laviano recently won the starting job after fending off LSU transfer Hayden Rettig, and RU hired Josh McDaniels'...younger brother, Ben McDaniels, to take over play calling. And it's going pretty well so far! Rutgers is averaging 48.5 points through two games.
The Knights inked the nation's 55th-ranked 2015 recruiting class according to 247Sports, which included equal parts (6) Pennsylvanian and New Jerseyite.
Oh yeah, the bad off-field stuff. It started so innocently with an email from Kyle Flood to a professor. That controversy was quashed once it was announced that Nadir Barnwell, whose grades were the subject of said emails, was one of five Scarlet Knights arrested in connection with home invasions and assault. All five, including a few prominent members of the RU secondary, were dismissed prior to the start of their opening game vs. Norfolk State (we're still in the offseason at this point, technically).
...and then, though it wasn't offseason, Carroo was suspended indefinitely following last week's game. Reports indicate he was arrested for a domestic violence issue, so that's not boding well for Flood.
That weakened secondary held up just fine against FCS Norfolk State, but Rutgers probably couldn't have asked for a worse matchup last weekend. Mike Leach's Washington State predictably had their way through the air all day and made their final possession count, scoring the game-winning touchdown with 13 seconds left. Rutgers did their best to respond:
Rutgers hasn't faced a defense as strong as Penn State's yet, but McDaniels has his unit playing with confidence at the moment. Laviano has looked solid in his six quarters of action, missing on just six of his 33 attempts and finding the end zone on four occasions. The loss of Carroo is a huge blow, but playmaker Janarion Grant looks primed to handle more touches after returning both a kick and a punt for a touchdown against Wazzu. The backfield trio of a healthy James, Josh Hicks and Robert Martin has found sledding easy early on. The three have combined for 444 yards in two games.
News that former blue-chip defensive tackle Darius Hamilton will not be available to play for the third straight week is sure to please James Franklin. Hamilton led a line that harassed Christian Hackenberg all night in Penn State's 13-10 win in Piscataway a season ago.
Linebacker Steve Longa is the player to watch in the front seven with Hamilton out, and he did his best to shoulder that weight last week with 18 tackles and two pass break-ups against Washington State. As for that pass rush, Rutgers tallied five sacks on Saturday, which would normally be an impressive number had Cougars QB Luke Falk not dropped back 66 times. By comparison, Penn State was credited for six sacks against Buffalo, whose QB Joe Licata threw 35 times.
Penn State's special teams will have their hands full with the aforementioned Grant, whose punt return TD nearly won the game for Rutgers last week. Kicker Kyle Federico and punter Joey Roth have been fine thus far. I really don't have much else to add. Read Bill Connelly's preview for more of everything.
On the Banks! Aww, it's okay guys. Trust us, it could be worse. You'll
be back get there someday!
/rustles Rutgers' hair