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2021 Opponent Snapshot: Rutgers Scarlet Knights

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Rutgers isn’t going to be a pushover under Greg Schiano

Penn State v Rutgers Photo by Benjamin Solomon/Getty Images

Quick 2020 Recap

The first season for Rutgers back under the guidance of Greg Schiano was an overall success. After going 2-10 in 2019, and being largely uncompetitive, the Scarlet Knights improved to 3-6 in 2020.

The season got off to a great start for the Scarlet Knights as they picked up a 38-27 win on the road against Michigan State. The next four weeks would be difficult for Rutgers, dropping four straight games including losses to Illinois and Michigan, two programs that struggled last season, with the Michigan loss being an overtime heartbreaker. However, the Scarlet Knights would end the season on a better foot by winning two of their final four games with victories over Purdue and Maryland.

It wasn’t anything spectacular for the program but it was clear from the first week of the season that the program was on the rise and was going to improve under the guidance of Schiano. Despite their six losses, that remained true throughout last season and heading into this season.

Offensive Player to Watch: WR Bo Melton

There are actually a few players who could be considered for this but it’s hard to go with anyone but wide receiver Bo Melton. Melton is an exciting do-it-all type player with the ability to impact the both the rushing and passing game, as well as on special teams. Last season he totaled 707 yards from scrimmage and 8 total touchdowns on 53 offensive touches. Melton also averaged nearly 30 yards per kick return, and he returned a punt for a touchdown.

Defensive Player to Watch: DL Mike Tverdov

Tverdov is entering his second senior season in 2021, and it will come on the heels of a career year in 2020. Last season, Tverdov recorded 42 tackles, 11.5 tackles for a loss, nine sacks and a forced fumble. Rutgers coaching staff and fan base are expecting quite a bit from Tverdov in 2021. Considering his numbers from the 2020 shortened season, Tverdov could be putting up eye-opening numbers this season.

Major Changes for 2021

In good news for Rutgers, there weren’t that many major changes for the program entering this season. In order to carry over the momentum from last season’s improvements Rutgers needed to have as much continuity as possible entering the 2022 season. They’ll get just that heading into this fall.

Penn State Wins If

Penn State wins if they control the time of possession and play mistake-free football. Rutgers rush defense was a major weakness last season and is likely to remain one in 2021. Penn State simply needs to run the ball down the throat of the Scarlet Knight defense continuously and, by doing so, rely on their strengths.

Defensively, it’s simple, limit the big plays. Over the last few seasons a common theme for Penn State is allowing way too many explosive plays. The Rutgers offense will be capable up creating those explosive plays in 2021 and if an opposing defense doesn’t take them seriously, will have the ability to take advantage of a quality portion of those mistakes.

Rutgers Wins If

There is a good chance that Rutgers is going to win one that, on paper, they shouldn’t in 2021. I truly believe that. Perhaps even two games. This team is going to be much improved again in 2021 and that’s a testament to how strong of a coach Schiano is and the coaching staff he’s put together in Piscataway.

That being said, I don’ think it will be against Penn State. However, if Rutgers is going to beat Penn State, it will be because they won the turnover battle and had more explosive plays. Rutgers wouldn’t need a perfect game, perse, to win, but it would take quite a bit to go wrong for Penn State for it to happen.