No messing around: Lions need to put Rutgers away early

By Cory Giger

Five things to look for as Penn State plays at Rutgers in what has become by far the easiest win on the Big Ten schedule each year.

No. 1: Cut to the chase

Rutgers is awful. This should be an easy win. Just show up and play.

No. 2: OK, real keys

I’ve got to have five of them, so here we go.

The most important thing for the Nittany Lions is really to not do what I’ve already done. They can’t just overlook the Scarlet Knights and dismiss this as an easy win.

It’s a noon game, and we all know that PSU has had many problems over the years not being fired up and ready to play at noon on the road. The Lions need to treat this as any other game, be focused from the outset and try to take control early.

The way to lose these kinds of games is to be sluggish at the outset, give the overmatched opponent an easy score or two and then spend the rest of the day trying to catch up.

When playing a bad team, you have to jump on them early, show your dominance and not let them believe they actually have a chance.

No. 3: Run the ball

With Miles Sanders.

Not with Trace McSorley.

The Lions implemented a good game plan last week against Wisconsin, finally getting Sanders more involved. He carried a career-high 23 times for 159 yards, averaging 6.9 yards per attempt.

This is Sanders’ first year starting, and his only other career game with at least 20 carries came at Illinois, when he went for 200 yards on 22 attempts.

Penn State’s run-pass option is most effective when the quarterback can pull the ball and run it at any time. But with McSorley’s bum knee, it’s just not smart to risk him getting hit on running attempts, especially when you can blow out the other team with just about any game plan.

Sanders should get at least 20 carries again, and the Lions can keep using the short passing game as an extension of the run game.

SUBHD: No. 4: Turnovers

This is how the game could get completely out of hand. Rutgers’ starting quarterback, Artur Sitkowski, has thrown 16 interceptions and only four touchdowns.

It’s almost impossible to hold onto a starting quarterback job at any level of football with that poor of a ratio.

The Lions can load up to stop Rutgers on the ground and force Sitkowski to throw, which should lead to some more picks. Add in a fumble recovery or two, and Penn State could top 40 points easily if it’s getting short fields.

SUBHD: No. 5: Players to watch

PSU: Sanders should have a huge day. Let’s see if the Lions throw him the ball more, as well.

Rutgers: The defensive line will be tested all day by PSU’s running game and will need a great day to prevent this from getting ugly.

Prediction: Penn State 42, Rutgers 10

Follow @CoryGiger on Twitter for live updates and analysis throughout today’s game.

PSU (7-3) at

Rutgers (1-9)

Kickoff: Noon


Line: PSU by 28; over/under is 50