#14 Penn State Nittany Lions vs. Rutgers Scarlet Knights
The Rutgers Scarlet Knights (1-9, 0-7) host the #14 Penn State Nittany Lions (7-3, 4-3) in a battle for Big Ten respectability for the home team. Will the Knights win their first conference game and gain respect? No.
I know, I know… Describing this game as a bye week will become locker room wall fodder for the Scarlet Knights… propelling them to great heights of mediocrity — and they’ll still lose. So don’t give me crapola about jinxes. The only way Rutgers can win this thing is if Penn State completely fails to show up. Will that happen? No.
This is a NOON KICKOFF and PSU always plays crappy in nooners until they wake up. Last week they gave up an 80-yard TD run to Jonathan Taylor before they smelled the coffee. As Urban Meyer once said of his Ohio State team in noon starts, “they come out with that dullard look…” Will that soporific “dullard look” help Rutgers? No.
So, does Rutgers have a chance? No.
Constructive Use of Bye Week
I guess the bigger question is whether Penn State and its brain trust will use this Rutgers Super Bowl to advantage for resting battered players and evaluating young talent. After all, they’re not an elite team. Instead, they’re a slightly better than mediocre team trying to beat a slightly worse than crappy team. Or something like that. If the Nittany Lions want to improve next year, now is the time to start looking at some options, although realistically, maybe that time has come and gone.
They can’t look beyond this pseudo-rivalry Super Bowl to the next big pseudo-rivalry Super Bowl with contrived Big Ten rival Maryland on Thanksgiving weekend. They need to focus on this game. That’s why James Franklin probably won’t listen to this turkey, and accordingly, will play his starters. Silly fool! Those who do not listen to the Turkey pay the price.
Know what I mean? If I was James Franklin, I’d insist on sitting Trace McSorley from the start. Why tempt fate? Trace’s Heisman hopes are history, and he’s been playing with an injury that could benefit from some rest. Tommy Stevens, meanwhile, has been used sparingly, and when he’s in there he’s mainly a runner. Franklin admitted that the brain trust considers Stevens an unofficial backup for Miles Sanders, taking the place of Mark Allen, who is out for the season. (Ricky Slade has not moved up into that role, perhaps due to slippery fingers).
If Penn State rests its starters, does Rutgers have a chance? No.
Rutgers Offensive Offense
Rutgers provides its offense in the form of a couple of decent running backs, Isaih Pacheco and particularly, Raheem Blackshear, who is also a decent receiver. You might want to watch them, and I’ll describe them as “promising.” (Well, shit, you got to watch something — I don’t know how else to generate interest in this game). Their young freshman quarterback Artur Sitkowski isn’t very good, but gets good protection from his offensive line, who have allowed only 1.2 sacks per game this year. Does that give Rutgers any hope? No.
Maybe allowing 1.2 sacks per game is misleading, because Rutgers ranks 123 in all of the FBS in third down conversions (fortunately, modest success in the Wisconsin game elevated Penn State to 110th). They’re 11th in the Big Ten in Increasingly Irrelevant Time of Possession (IITOP), but they can’t hold a candle to Penn State’s cellar-dwelling 14th. I hope PSU will be able to improve on that after this game is in the record books.
In offensive categories, Rutgers is truly offensive. Last in the B10 by a huge margin in scoring offense (14.5 points per game) and total offense (274.4 yards per game). Twelfth in rush offense and thirteenth in pass offense. Last in pass efficiency. Last in first downs, thirteenth in third-down conversions, and last but not least — or last but just dead last — Rutgers is worst in the Big Ten in turnover margin, averaging 1.2 net turnovers lost per game.
Rutgers Defense Suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucks
Defensively, well, it ain’t much better. Rutgers is next-to-last in scoring defense, allowing 34.3 points per game. Next-to-last in rush defense. Last in pass interceptions — they’ve had six this year and they managed to return them for negative net yards. Next-to-last in sacks. Dead last allowing third-down conversions. It goes on and on. So, let’s cut to the chase, already, shall we? I’m beating a dead horse here.
Scarlett [sic] Knights?
That’s how the geniuses at BWI spelled it in their depth chart. Will that impel the Scarlet Knights to win? Come back, Shane. Will it, Shane, will it? No.
Snow is forecast for Thursday and Friday, but should be gone by Saturday, with a forecast high of 49°. Because of the damn NOON KICKOFF, it will be colder than that, but a reasonably good football day. Who does that benefit? Not Rutgers. They suck.
Da Bottom Line
Here we are and here we go…* Next-to-last game of the regular season, and we should have a walkover here. Penn State favored by an even four touchdowns — that’s 28 points. The over/under is a flat 50. The money line shows a dearth of interest in this game and yea, verily, I’ve already spent too much time writing about it. Penn State 56, Rutgers 0. No shit, I’m calling for the shutout. The boys have a statement to make and maybe they’ll make it. Take the over. I’m optimistic, already.
*“Here we go…” I lifted that transition from the Finnish guy who runs The Hydraulic Press Channel on YouTube, which is devoted to smashing various items with a gigantic, industrial hydraulic press and is one of my all-time favorites. Who doesn’t love to watch stuff being pulverized???!!
I’ll be back during Thanksgiving week if I survive the chopping block. Turkeys must lay low, you know. I don’t think I’ll get a pardon from President Trump, either. He’s more likely to say, “You’re fired!” (Can you actually fire the Thanksgiving turkey? I don’t know…).