5 keys for Nittany Lions game against Rutgers
Five things to look for as Penn State closes the regular season at woeful Rutgers, while also hoping for some help that will get the Nittany Lions to the Rose Bowl.
No. 1: Scoreboard watching
What does Penn State need to do to beat this awful Rutgers team? Hmmmm.
Just show up.
So, let’s discuss what’s actually the more important game today.
Wisconsin travels to Minnesota for a 3:30 p.m. game to decide the West Division champ. Penn State fans want the Badgers to win that game.
If so, Minnesota would have two losses. The Gophers are No. 8 in the College Football Playoff rankings, while PSU is No. 10. If it loses today, Minnesota likely would drop below the Lions in the CFP, even though the Gophers beat PSU head to head.
Then, if Ohio State beats Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game, Penn State should be the highest-ranked team from the conference that’s not going to the CFP.
The Lions, therefore, would be headed to the Rose Bowl.
If Minnesota wins today, then loses to Ohio State in the Big Ten title game, the Gophers still could be ranked ahead of PSU. That means they would get the Rose Bowl bid.
So, while you’re watching Penn State destroy Rutgers, keep an eye on the scoreboard and be rooting for Wisconsin.
One last thing: There are still other scenarios that could change everything, the biggest being if Michigan upsets Ohio State today. Barring that, and if everything else falls into place, the Minnesota-Wisconsin game could be what decides PSU’s fate.
No. 2: QB shuffle
Sean Clifford has been banged up and isn’t as mobile, and that forced him out of last week’s loss at Ohio State. Will Levis filled in admirably running the ball but wasn’t overly effective passing.
Clifford is a game-time decision today, and the guess here is he will start. He won’t be asked to do too much with regards to running and instead primarily will stay around the pocket.
Levis probably will play a good bit, either as the QB or lined up as the “lion” along with Clifford to help in the run game.
It actually could be interesting to see what PSU’s offense looks like with a heavy dose of Clifford and Levis in the game at the same time. We got small doses of that with Tommy Stevens as the “lion” the past couple years, but ultimately the position wound up being underutilized because Stevens couldn’t stay healthy.
No. 3: Roll it up
Look for the Lions to win in a huge rout. Take out their frustration from last week’s loss on an opponent that’s a 40-point underdog and is poor on both sides of the ball.
It’s not about running up the score or anything. This is the home finale, so give the fans a show by pouring it on and letting the players have a good time.
If PSU is playing well, there’s nothing Rutgers can do to stop it.
No. 4: The future
Rutgers has been a train wreck for a few years now, but there actually could be some hope for the future.
Greg Schiano had success there, and it’s possible he could be returning as coach. It appeared to be a done deal for a while, then negotiations fell apart this week.
But over the past couple of days, there has been renewed optimism the two sides have mended some fences and made progress.
If hired, there’s no guarantee Schiano would make Rutgers as big of a factor as it was when the Scarlet Knights were in the Big East. But he could at least make the program respectable to the point where it’s not a 40-point underdog against anybody.
No. 5: Players to watch
Penn State: We’ll see how effective QB Sean Clifford is, and look for him to take a bunch of shots deep down the field.
Rutgers: This is week 12, in the year 2019, in the era of throwing the football. Yet Rutgers’ team leader in passing yards has all of 676. That’s in nine games. Hard to believe. It will be interesting to see if Johnny Langan can get anything going throwing the ball against a PSU defense that has struggled to stop it the past few weeks.
Prediction: Penn State, 52-6.