Penn State is back at home on Saturday to take on Rutgers. Several out there believe they should be able to win this one quite easily. However, we have seen Penn State lose games that should’ve never been close (see: Illinois), and Rutgers could be one of them.
Here are the top five reasons why Rutgers will beat Penn State on Saturday.
Penn State Run Game
Dec 5, 2020; Piscataway, New Jersey, USA; Penn State running back Keyvone Lee (24) carries the ball as Rutgers Scarlet Knights linebacker Olakunle Fatukasi (3) pursues during the first half at SHI Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Penn State‘s run game looked very promising last week against Michigan. Keyvone Lee finished strong in the second half, despite their loss to the Wolverines. However, Illinois has a very average defense and they still held in Nittany Lions to just 62 yards rushing. Rutgers defense is capable of preventing any big plays from Penn State’s run game. It will be tough, but it’s still possible.
Penn State's losing streak at home
Oct 23, 2021; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; General view of Beaver Stadium prior to the game between the Illinois Fighting Illini and the Penn State Nittany Lions. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
As mentioned last week, Penn State has been very shaky at home all season. It has been well over a month since they last won a game at home, and teams like Rutgers will come in and take advantage of that situation. Plus, the Scarlet Knights don’t have to travel too far to get to State College.
It may also be fair to wonder just what the energy in Beaver Stadium will be on a cold November afternoon with Penn State left with little to play for outside of bumping its bowl projection up a mild notch.
Penn State Run Defense
Nov 13, 2021; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Michigan Wolverines running back Hassan Haskins (25) runs with the ball during the second quarter against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports
Sure, Rutgers run game isn’t really something to take seriously, but we have seen average running backs like Isaiah Pacheco come through State College and play lights out like Chase Brown from Illinois. The Scarlet Knights don’t have the most productive offense. Pacheco has had up-and-down games against Big Ten opponents this season. However, he did rush for over 100 yards against Michigan. Can he do it again against Penn State? With the Nittany Lions run defense, it’s certainly possible.
Pressuring Sean Clifford
Nov 13, 2021; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Sean Clifford (14) runs with the ball during the first quarter against the Michigan Wolverines at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports
We have seen Sean Clifford under a deep amount of pressure, and sometimes it’s not pretty. The offensive line also hasn’t held up their end of the bargain either. By the end of the third quarter, Clifford had been sacked seven times by the Michigan defense. Sure, Rutgers defense isn’t really much compared to Michigan’s. But, they are still capable of creating chaos and getting in the head of Clifford.
Penn State's Offensive Line
Iowa linebacker Jestin Jacobs (5) goes up against a block from Penn State offensive lineman Rasheed Walker (53) as quarterback Ta’Quan Roberson (2) looks to pass during a NCAA Big Ten Conference football game, Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021, at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa. Iowa beat Penn State, 23-20.
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This goes hand-in-hand with the point mentioned above. Penn State’s offensive line as been inconsistent all year. Offensive tackle Rasheed Walker was a big draft name to watch coming into this season for the 2022 offensive line class. However, he has struggled through much of this year, which has ultimately affected his draft stock. If the Rutgers defense can be productive against the passing game, where Penn State’s offense does well at, this could be a long game for the Nittany Lions.
It will be tough for Rutgers to overcome this obstacle, but Penn State has been inconsistent all season. This is certainly a winnable game for them.