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No. 10 Penn State vs. Rutgers: Game Preview

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How did we get to the last regular season game of the season already??

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 11 Rutgers at Penn State Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Penn State aims for win #10 to close out the 2019 regular season as they attempt to send out the seniors on a winning note in their last game at Beaver Stadium.

(#10) Penn State (9-2, 6-2) vs. Rutgers (2-9, 0-8)

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m., Beaver Stadium, State College, PA

The Betting Line: Penn State -41

TV: BTN - Brandon Gaudin (play-by-play), James Laurinaitis (analyst), Elise Menaker (sideline)

Weather: A cold and gloomy day with temperatures in the 30s. A wintry mix of snow and ice is expected in the afternoon.

COACHES:

James Franklin:

PENN STATE RECORD: 54-23, 6th Year

OVERALL RECORD: 78-38, 9th Year

VS. RUTGERS: 5-0

Nunzio Campanile:

RUTGERS RECORD: 1-6, 1st Season (interim)

OVERALL RECORD: Same

VS. PENN STATE: First Meeting

NOW THE FUN PART....

RUTGERS OFFENSE VS. PENN STATE DEFENSE

Rutgers offense has been so outright inept this season that they make the 2004 Penn State offense look like a version of Steve Spurrier’s high-flying Fun ‘N Gun attack. In the eight conference games this season, Rutgers point total has been 0, 0, 7, 0, 7, 10, 21 (wyd Buckeyes??), and 0. The offense has simply been unable to produce, leading to not one single competitive conference game all season.

Johnny Langan took over quarterback duties in week six, a 48-7 loss to Maryland. Since then, Langan has completed 50.1 percent of passes for just 676 yards, with four touchdowns and nine interceptions. He’s only reached 100 or more passing yards in three of seven games thus far, including a win against Liberty. Langan is coming off an 8-of-20 performance against Michigan State where he threw for 57 yards, with no touchdowns and one interception.

Bo Melton is the main, and about the only reliable option a wide receiver. He has 27 catches for 375 yards and two scores on the season. Running back Rasheem Blackshear is leading the team with 29 receptions, and after these two, no one has more than 14 catches.

Running back Isaih Pacheco is the main man on the ground, with 627 yards on the season, and 45.3 yards per game in conference play. He’s reached the end zone seven times on the season, but six of those scores came against UMASS and Liberty. Langan can be dangerous with his legs and has become a regular factor in the running game sine taking over, and has at least 41 yards rushing in each of the past four games.

PENN STATE OFFENSE VS. RUTGERS DEFENSE

While the Scarlet Knights offense has performed poorly this season, the defense has....also performed poorly. Without including the season opener against 1-10 UMASS, Rutgers has only held an opponent to under 30 points once all season (which came in Saturday’s 27-0 loss to Michigan State). Rutgers has been leaky against both the pass and rush, allowing nearly 200 yards a game on the ground (107th nationally) and just under 250 yards through the air (94th nationally). They’re also near the bottom in creating turnovers, forcing just nine on the season with five interceptions and four fumble recoveries.

Middle linebacker and Big Ten Distinguished Scholar Tyshon Fogg has been a tackling machine, and will hit the century mark for the season at some point Saturday. Outside linebacker Olakunle Fatukasi is not far behind with 83 tackles, including 4.5 TFLs, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Junior defensive end Elorm Lumor leads the team with sacks, although as a team the Scarlet Knights struggle to get to the quarterback, compiling 14 on the season.

Penn State’s offense has dealt with some key injuries in recent weeks. Running back Noah Cain and KJ Hamler were available to return to action against Ohio State, but quarterback Sean Clifford was forced out in the third quarter and did not return. According to Franklin, Clifford was able to re-enter the game but did not to avoid further injury, especially as the offense was moving the ball with backup Will Levis. He will be a game-time decision on Saturday, which could lead to Levis’ first career start. Considering the sloppy conditions expected for Saturday, it’s feasible that all will be used just in case of emergency if they aren’t close to 100 percent.

SPECIAL TEAMS

One bright spot for the Scarlet Knights can be found in the kicking game. Junior Justin Davidovicz is nine-of-12 on the season, and connected on his only 50-yard attempt of the season. He has a career long of 52 yards. Adam Korsak is one of the best punters in the nation, regularly flipping the field with 60-plus yard blasts. He’s averaging 43.7 yards per punt on the season, with 11 that went for 50 or more yards.

Sophomore cornerback Avery Young handles returns for the Scarlet Knights, averaging 2.8 yards on punt returns and 21.2 on kickoff returns. He does not have a return touchdown on the season, but has come close to breaking one a few times this season.

PREDICTION

Penn State-42 , Rutgers-7

Rutgers is just in a bad place right now, and whoever is hired as the new football coach will have a massive rebuilding project on his hands. It’s not only that Rutgers can’t beat anyone in the Big Ten, they can’t even make a competitive game against anyone in the conference.

Penn State reaches the end zone on its first two possessions and doesn’t look back. The running game carries the load on a snowy afternoon, with Journey Brown as the headliner with 130 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Will Levis adds one with his legs and another with his arm, connecting with Nick Bowers in his final game in Beaver Stadium. Nick Eury closes out the scoring by carrying several Rutgers defenders into the end zone with him, bookending his season with touchdown runs.

Cam Brown joins the Senior Day fun with a strip-sack and 10 tackles, and Micah Parsons continues his red-hot run with 13 tackles and 4 TFLs.

The good guys roll as they send off the seniors with a win, and then play the waiting game to find out where they will be heading next.

On a personal note, I want to wish you a happy Thanksgiving weekend. Enjoy all the food and football, and most importantly, time with loved ones. I’m incredibly thankful to be part of such an amazing community of fellow Penn State faithful.