Finding a scarlet letter
Five things to look for as Penn State looks to snap a two-game losing streak on homecoming against a bad but improved Rutgers team.
No. 1: Roll it up
The Nittany Lions need to rout this team, and they should, to help get over the sting of dropping two crushing games in a row.
There’s nothing the Scarlet Knights can do to make things overly difficult on PSU on either side of the ball. They are a really bad passing team, which has been a weakness for the Lions the past two weeks, so there’s not much chance they’ll move the ball consistently through the air.
With Rutgers punting all day, Penn State’s offense will have numerous chances to roll up the score. The point spread is 31 for a reason.
No. 2: Get Barkley going
Saquon Barkley is still second in betting odds for the Heisman Trophy, despite having a tough time running the ball for much of the season.
Oklahoma still could lose again, which would hurt Baker Mayfield’s chances, but no matter what the Sooners do, Barkley needs to start putting up some huge numbers.
Look for the PSU coaches to give him ample opportunities today, on the ground — hopefully on the edge instead of up the middle — and through the air.
Barkley needs at least 200 all-purpose yards. If he can top 300 it would help, although Heisman voters would still know it came against lowly Rutgers.
No. 3: Develop depth
Where oh where has Tommy Stevens been? The backup quarterback is such a good offensive weapon that it’s ridiculous the coaches didn’t find a way to get him into games at Ohio State and Michigan State.
This is the kind of game that, as PSU pulls away, the coaches can get a lot of players involved at positions all over the field. That experience can only help, because as we’ve seen in recent weeks, there’s still a pretty big dropoff from starters to second-teamers when it comes to being reliable in big games.
SUBHD: No. 4: Win back fans
This is homecoming, and a blowout win — even if it is against Rutgers — would help calm down some of the fans who are unjustly freaking out over two straight losses.
The Lions lost the two games by a total of four points, on the road, against good teams. The sky is not falling. James Franklin doesn’t need to be fired.
Yes, there are some issues that have popped up. This is the kind of game where the Lions can work on those issues and still not be in jeopardy of losing.
SUBHD: No. 5: Players to watch
PSU: I’m going with Barkley again because I expect him to have a monster day against the program he was initially committed to before flipping to Penn State.
Rutgers: The D-line isn’t too bad, and going up against PSU’s struggling offensive line, it might be able to win some battles in the trenches. If it wins too many of them, it would be a really bad sign for the Lions.
Prediction: Penn State 44, Rutgers 6
Follow @CoryGiger on Twitter for live updates and analysis throughout today’s game.