Rudderless Penn State Offense Tackles Rutgers
Who is scarlet? The New Jersey Knights of the Order of Piscataway are. I know of only one person who can comprehend the significance of the title of this article and she ain’t talking. But suffice to say that Rutgers ain’t Princeton.
This weekend, #12 Penn State (8-2, 5-2 Big Ten) hosts the plucky, upsurging Rutgers Scarlet Knights (6-4, 3-4) on Saturnalia Day at High Noon. It is also Senior Day at Beaver Stadium, a day on which we send our seniors off with heartfelt appreciation to pursue their burgeoning careers in the NFL or as insurance agents.
Following Penn State’s heartbreaking loss to Michigan, head coach James Franklin summarily fired offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich’s ass, so now, the offense is rudderless, run by committee. That means the results should be better. Interestingly enough, the previous Penn State offensive coordinator, Kirk Ciarrocca, is now the offensive coordinator for Rutgers. So, it will be a weird reunion, no doubt.
Will we see any ridiculous two-point conversions? Any dumbass fourth-down decisions? How about plays drawn up by third graders, like that abominable desperation two-point conversion attempt we saw last week? I hope the offensive committee has received my message that the key is to impel the opposing defense to respect Penn State’s offense, not to make them laugh at it!
All RIGHT! On to the game…
Head Coach Greg Schiano, in his second stint in that position, has built Rutgers into a team that is no longer the laughingstock of the Big Ten. This year, his Scarlet Knights have whipped Northwestern, Moo U., and Indiana, so they can say they’re at least fourth from the bottom. Big Ten losses were to Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Iowa. All were ranked opponents except Wisconsin, which is pretty rank this year.
This week, they face the Mighty Penn State Nittany Lions, the third best team in all of the Big Ten. If we were to play king of the hill minus two, Penn State would reside at the very tippy top of the heap. But we cannot ignore our perennial dual nemeses. The Lions remain their usual, mediocre selves, sad sacks who cannot beat the top two. So, we hope that they’ll beat Rutgers to save their last semblance of pride in the 2023 season. Penn State can still get an undeserved New Year’s Six bowl, so this one is for all the marbles, and maybe a few Skittles thrown in besides.
About Our Opponent
No, I’m not going to drag out the picture of Asia Carrera. Tempting, though! Anyway, Rutgers is not a joke this year. They’re beatable, but it won’t be like the Nittany Lions are lubed up with Astra-Glide.
Surprisingly, Rutgers has the fifth ranked offense in the Big Ten and the sixth ranked defense. As I mentioned previously, Schiano has taken them to a position of respectability in the conference. Leading rusher junior Kyle Monangai averages just under 100 yards per game. He also leads the conference with 942 yards on 181 attempts thus far this season, with seven touchdowns to boot. Junior Quarterback Gavin Wimsatt is 10th in the conference in passing, but he is a threat to run, with 409 yards on 89 carries. Wimsatt and his offensive line have performed well, ranking #1 in the Big Ten in sacks against. Alas, Rutgers is even worse than Penn State in 3rd Down Conversions, with a putrid 36% rate.
The Dreaded “Injury Bug”
Unfortunately, Monangai is injured, but won’t admit it. Or maybe Schiano won’t let him. In the 22-0 loss to Iowa last week, which some predicted would be a repeat of the 2004 PSU-Iowa classic 6-4 game, he had only 39 yards on 13 carries. Wimsett has no one to throw to, so generating any offense will be difficult if Monangai is hobbled.
The defense is nothing to write home about. I would think that unless the Lions are pouty after the Michigan loss, they will skewer the Knights with their blue-and-white lances. I joust you not! Rutgers is dead last in sacks and tenth in interceptions. Please, Mr. Franklin, turn Drew Allar and his ragtag bunch of receivers loose against this defense. Pretty please? What is there to lose?
In special teams, Rutgers scrapes the bottom of the barrel in kickoffs, but they’re better than Penn State in field goal percentage. In punting, they are bad. How’s that for a concrete analysis?
We’re at mid-fall in Central Pennsylvania, so ya nevah know! Right now, the Accuweather boys and girls predict a balmy fall day at St. Joe Memorial Stadium at Beaver Field, partly cloudy with a high of 58. We’ll see…
Da Bottomest Line
The Official Turkey Poop Prediction follows, after a little extra bullshit just to fill some space. I’ve blown enough drivel your way already, but I just felt like running off some more at the keyboard. Who would you like to see as the next PSU offensive coordinator? Does it really matter who that is, given that James Franklin is running the show? Given the history of five OCs in ten years, will anyone be interested in the job?
Alright, I’ll play your game, speckalatin’ here like all the other clueless Penn State beat writers. Maybe Bill O’Brien, former Penn State head coach, Alabama defensive coordinator, NFL Houston Texans head coach, and OC for the New England Patriots will be in the mix. The Patriots suck this year and rumors have Bill Bellichick leaving. What about Joe Moorhead, currently head coach at Akron and former PSU OC? He was one OC Franklin left pretty much to his own devices. How about Josh Gattis, currently OC at Maryland and formerly Michigan and Miami? He also coached under Franklin at Vanderbilt and Penn State. I haven’t mentioned all the names I’m keeping secret due to the gag order Pat Kraft imposed on me. Whoozitgonnabe? Franklin will likely have his ducks in a row by the second week in December; like the rest of the weenies, I want to say I told you so. I should dig up another couple dozen names to enhance my non-credibility.
Let’s get on with it…
And now, the news. Penn State is favored by 20.5 points with an over/under of 41.5. That gives us a break-even of 31-10 or thereabouts. Because of the noon start and lingering melancholia by the taciturn offense, you can throw away the first quarter. Rutgers gonna keep it close (more like offensive ennui on Penn State’s part) in the first half, which could likely be 10-3 Penn State, but PSU will surge in quarter number three. In that period, they’ll score two touchdowns and miss on a two-point conversion attempt that will reveal that Franklin makes those dumbass decisions himself. I’ll go with Penn State 23, Rutgers 6 and I’ll take the under. And a proposition bet for you: Penn State will be 2-3 in fourth down conversions.
I’ll be back after the game to provide a maudlin retrospective on the Nittany Lions’ conduct in this last home game of the season. (I revised my prediction when I went back and looked at Monangai’s injury and how he sucked in the Iowa game).