No. 13 Penn State has seen a promising season derailed by back-to-back narrow road losses, and it will try to take out its frustration at home against an improving Rutgers squad on Saturday. Following a late collapse in a damaging one-point loss at Ohio State, the Nittany Lions fell on a last-second field goal at Michigan State last Saturday, tumbling from No. 2 in the country to a likely afterthought for the College Football Playoff.
“The fact that we’ve lost by a total of four points in the last two games just doesn’t really mean much to us,” senior wide receiver DeAndre Thompkins told reporters. “The games are in the past. Losses are in the past. Wins are in the past. What matters now is Rutgers.” A defense that entered the game against the Buckeyes as the best in the nation in terms of scoring has given up 1,003 total yards in the losses, and stars Trace McSorley (three interceptions last week) and Saquon Barkley (107 rushing yards on 35 carries during the losing streak) have struggled to keep pace. Those two helped Penn State outgain Rutgers by a stunning 549-87 margin in a 39-0 win last season, the Lions’ 10th straight victory in the series. Since a 56-0 loss at Ohio State, the Scarlet Knights have won three of their last four, including a 31-24 triumph over Maryland last week.
TV: Noon ET, Big Ten Network. LINE: Penn State -31
ABOUT RUTGERS (4-5, 3-3 Big Ten): Gus Edwards ran for 109 yards against the Terrapins and hauled in the decisive 23-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter as the Scarlet Knights pulled within two victories of becoming bowl eligible for the first time since 2014. “We have been saying that, that we can get into a bowl game,” running back Robert Martin - who had 69 yards and a TD - told reporters. “We are the only people who believe in ourselves.” Junior quarterback Giovanni Rescigno has thrown for over 100 yards in back-to-back games for the first time this season after amassing 107 and a TD pass against Maryland.
ABOUT PENN STATE (7-2, 4-2): Barkley has fewer than 20 rushes in three of his last four games - including a season low-tying 14 last week - and his production in the passing game has leveled off as well. “Obviously, we want to get the ball in Saquon’s hands as much as we possibly can,” head coach James Franklin said at his weekly press conference. “But we won’t force it. And once again, if people are taking so much time keeping Saquon from getting the ball, it creates other opportunities. I think Trace threw for about 400 yards last week. That’s going to happen when you overcompensate, it creates opportunities in other areas.” McSorley actually had 381 yards - a season high - but his three interceptions represented the most he has thrown in a game since the Rose Bowl last season.
1. Scarlet Knights DB Kiy Hester has three interceptions - two of which he returned for TDs - over a five-game span.
2. Nittany Lions WR DaeSean Hamilton has five TD catches and three 100-yard efforts over his last five games.
3. McSorley needs 140 passing yards to surpass Matt McGloin (6,390) and move into third place on the school’s all-time list.\
PREDICTION: Penn State 38, Rutgers 10