Saturday, September 19 2015
8:00PM (Eastern), BTN/BTN2
Brandon Bell (LB): Listed as questionable after banging up his ankle in the Temple game, he is marked as the starter on this week's depth chart at SAM linebacker.
Andrew Nelson (LT): Listed as questionable, marked as the starter at LT on this week's depth chart.
Ben Kline (LB): Listed as questionable, but does not appear on the depth chart. Unlikely he plays.
Grant Haley (DB): Marked as questionable, listed as a starter on the depth chart.
Kyle Carter (TE): Out indefinitely.
Nyeem Hartman-White (LB): Out for the season
Adam Brenneman: Out indefinitely, Franklin has not said why (likely a setback in his physical therapy).
Dismissed from the program: Nadir Barnwell, Delon Stephenson, Razohnn Gross, Ruthann Peele, Andre Boggs. All defensive backs, and all dismissed from the program for assaulting a group of people, including a Rutgers student, and allegedly being involved in a series of armed home invasions.
Out indefinitely: Leonte Carroo (suspended for slamming a woman to the concrete after last week's
Unlikely to play Saturday: Desmon Peoples (RB), Dontae Owens (WR), George Behr (TE), Jacquis
Webb (OL), Jawuan Harris (WR), Austin Rosa (LB), Darius Hamilton (DR).
Additionally, Rutgers will be without head coach Kyle Flood because he was recently suspended for 3 games and fined $50,000 for having impermissible contact with a player's professor. In case you didn't click the hyperlink, Flood emailed the professor several times, including from his personal account, then met in person with the professor while wearing no Rutgers gear to avoid being identified. Flood managed to convince the professor to allow his player to write an essay to make up work for a class he had already completed. Then, just to top it all off, Coach Flood also provided "grammatical and minor editorial suggestions to the submitted paper." Yup.
- Penn State defense vs. Rutgers offense- Rutgers has displayed the more potent offense this season (48.5 ppg), but they played two garbage teams and this Penn State squad looks decent. The linebackers played especially well last week considering they were down two starters, and the defensive line has been superlative. Rutgers will miss Leonte Carroo on the field (181 yards, 3 TD), but they have been running the ball well and should test whether this PSU defense can stand up as well in the Big Ten as it has against lesser competition.
- Battle of the Coaching Staffs- I'm putting this as a key matchup because Penn State's current coaching staff tends to look foolish compared to the clipboard carriers on the far sideline, but they may stand a chance against interim head coach Norries Wilson.
- Penn State Wideouts vs Rutgers Secondary- Chris Godwin has been pretty solid this season, but look for DaeSean Hamilton and Geno Lewis to get involved downfield this Saturday. Rutgers' secondary was decimated by the dismissals, and this may be their best chance to find daylight against a Big Ten defense.
Players to Watch:
- Carl Nassib (DE, PSU)- Nassib has been on a tear, and this will be his first chance to show that he can dominate within the conference. A big game against Rutgers would make three in a row, and vault him into the national conversation as a potential All-American and NFL draft pick.
- Anthony Zettel (DT, PSU)- Zettel had a great pass deflection with set Nassib up for the interception last week. I'm looking for a big game from either Zettel or Austin Johnson as teams are forced to account for Nassib. With Nassib, Zettel and Johnson playing side-by-side (left to right), I don't envy Rutgers' defensive coordinator.
- Christian Hackenberg (QB, PSU)- It's time for Hack to come back. With Rutgers' depleted secondary, shots should be available downfield. This offensive line is anything but solid so far, but if Hackenberg is able to stay upright, this is a team he should be able to beat with his arm.
- Saquon Barkley (RB, PSU)- Watch for him to get involved early. Rutgers runs the ball well, and Penn State will need to establish their own running game to keep the time of possession even. Barkley showed great burst and decisiveness last week, and I expect him to start sharing more of Lynch's load early in the game this week.
- Janarion Grant (WR, RU)- Grant has the most to gain from Carroo's suspension. As a receiver, he's caught 6 passes for 71 yards this season, with Carroo getting most of the targets and yardage. However, as a special teams player he has returned two kickoffs and one punt for touchdowns, and averages a ridiculous 39 yards on kickoff returns.
This is a tough game to predict a score. Both teams have a lot of question marks, and their strengths and weaknesses seem to match up evenly. Penn State's anemic offense will face off against Rutgers' depleted defense, while Rutgers' more impressive offense may not find traction against a tough PSU defensive unit. Ultimately I think Hack will show improvement and the running game will gain consistency, while the defense will do enough to keep them in the game for a narrow victory.