Penn State (2-0) at Rutgers (2-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 13, 8 p.m. (ET).
FACTS & STATS: Site: High Point Solutions Stadium (52,454) -- Piscataway, New Jersey. Television: Big Ten Network. Home Record: PSU 1-0, Rutgers 1-0. Away Record: PSU 0-0, Rutgers 1-0. Neutral Record: PSU 1-0, Rutgers 0-0. Conference Record: PSU 0-0, Rutgers 0-0. Series Record: Penn State leads, 22-2.
GAME NOTES: Rutgers takes aim at its first-ever home win against Penn State on Saturday night when the Nittany Lions visit High Point Solutions Stadium for a Big Ten Conference matchup.
Penn State is opening conference play on the road for the fifth straight season, and will be the first Big Ten squad to get a look at league newcomer Rutgers. The Nittany Lions opened their season with a 26-24 win over UCF in Ireland, then beat Akron last week at home by a 21-3 margin.
On Monday, the NCAA waived Penn State's postseason ban, which was originally scheduled to be in place through the 2015 season as part of the fallout from the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal.
This marks Rutgers' first game as a member of the Big Ten. The Scarlet Knights were a 41-38 winner at Washington State in their season opener, and a 38-25 winner over Howard last weekend in Piscataway. Next up, they'll travel to Annapolis to face Navy before returning home for two straight.
Penn State holds a commanding 22-2 lead in the head-to-head series. Rutgers is winless in nine meetings all-time as the home team, although this is the first time since 1955 the Scarlet Knights are hosting PSU.
Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg seems to have picked up right where he left off last year when he was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year. Hackenberg has begun his sophomore campaign with a league-best 773 yards through two games, breaking Zack Mills' school record for passing yards in consecutive games (686 yards in 2002). Hackenberg threw for 319 yards and three touchdowns in last week's win over Akron. Still, Akron was able to hang around thanks to two interceptions and a fumble recovery. In addition, PSU's ground game was virtually nonexistent with 106 yards on 31 carries (3.4 ypc).
The Nittany Lions defense held Akron QB Kyle Pohl to a 52 percent completion rate and just 208 yards on 24 connections. The defensive backfield was able to prevent big plays while the pass rush generated four sacks. PSU also did not allow a Zips' rusher to eclipse 30 yards on the ground for the game. Linebacker Mike Hull posted 11 tackles for the second straight game to start his senior season as the Big Ten's second-leading tackler. He also broke up a pass and collected a sack. Teammate Anthony Zettel notched his second sack and fourth tackle for loss, while cornerback Jordan Lucas currently tops the league rankings with four passes defended.
The Scarlet Knights had more trouble with Howard than they likely anticipated, perhaps a result of glancing ahead to this week's highly-anticipated matchup. Still, the offense got the job done as Gary Nova completed 15-of-19 passes for 282 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. Nova is currently the top-rated passer in the Big Ten. Running back Paul James scored three first- half touchdowns and finished with 143 yards from scrimmage (100 receiving, 43 rushing). James leads the conference in scoring with six touchdowns.
Defensively, the Scarlet Knights have been able to get after the quarterback as they notched three sacks at Washington State and five against Howard. However, defending the run has been an entirely different story. They managed to win last week's game despite being gashed for 259 yards (6.0 ypc) and four scores on the ground. A similar effort against the likes of Penn State backs Bill Belton and Zach Zwinak is not likely to produce another victory. Steve Longa led the way with eight tackles against Howard and has a team-best 15 stops on the season. Kemoko Turay has accounted for 3.5 of the unit's eight sacks.
While Penn State has had the upper hand in this series, it promises to be a charged up atmosphere at High Point Solutions Stadium with the Scarlet Knights playing their first Big Ten game in prime time. It is also worth noting that RU coach Kyle Flood is 8-0 in the month of September. However, with the news coming down that Penn State can now play for the conference crown and achieve a bowl invite, expect the visitors to come out on top.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Penn State 30, Rutgers 27
09/10 10:42:17 ET