Time – 8 p.m., Beaver Stadium, State College, Pa.
TV/Radio – Big Ten Network, 1450 AM WCTC, 710 AM WOR
Series – Rutgers leads 1-0
Last meeting – Sept. 13, 2014, Penn State won 13-10
Coaches: Rutgers – Norries Wilson (Interim, 17-43 in 6 seasons at Columbia); Penn State – James Franklin (5th season 32-22, 2nd at Penn State, 8-7)
Wilson! – Norries Wilson is the man in charge Saturday as head coach Kyle Flood's suspension officially starts on game day. Wilson has six years of head-coaching experience and has been with Flood during his entire Rutgers tenure as head coach. If Wilson’s track record with running backs is any sign for the future, the Scarlet Knights are in good hands. Wilson’s rise to the top allows for the most similar game-day experience. Ben McDaniels has the same role with the offense. Joe Rossi has the same role with the defense. Phil Galiano has the same role with special teams.
What? – Quarterback Chris Laviano has to make his voice heard tomorrow night, and it won’t be easy in the extreme environment that is night time in Happy Valley. Laviano faced a passionate crowd when he debuted last year at Nebraska. But Penn State will be 25 percent bigger and 50 percent louder. Laviano has to be ready because Rutgers cannot afford mistakes.
Rise Above Hate – The Rutgers locker room has to be sick of the national criticism and after a week of hard work at closed practices, the Scarlet Knights finally get their chance to strike back and it comes in what is the most anticipated game of the season for them. Rutgers has an “us against the world” mentality right now, and could come out of the tunnel with plenty of emotion
Matchup to Watch
Zettel was a monster in the trenches against Rutgers in last year’s battle. He controlled against a more experienced offensive line and Nelson continues to grow into his role as the commander in the trenches. Rutgers ran for 3.3 yards per carry last year, and has to improve in the rematch with a less experienced passing game.
Scarlet Knights win if …
They Get to Hackenberg – The offensive line struggles at Penn State are well documented, but so are the absences in the Rutgers defensive secondary. If quarterback Christian Hackenberg has half as much time as Rutgers gave Washington State last week, he is in position for a big day. Rutgers has to hit hard and hit often in the trenches.
Nittany Lions Win if …
They Shake Rutgers Early – Rutgers struck first last year and Penn State still dug deep for the victory after Gary Nova’s meltdown. An early attack in front of a hyped home crowd could prove insurmountable with the depth issues and off-field distractions for the Scarlet Knights.
WR Janarion Grant – Penn State isn’t going to make the same mistake as Washington State, and it’s up to offensive coordinator Ben McDaniels and special teams coordinator Phil Galiano to get the ball in the hands of their best playmaker. Carroo is out, and Grant has enough electricity to change what could be a low-scoring game with just one touch.
Something to Prove
DE Kemoko Turay – The banged up Turay had a minimal impact through two games. He was a monster during the early Rutgers run last season, and has to consistently create pressure when in the game. Penn State is banged up on its offensive line, and Turay has natural physical tools unmatched by most college football players. He has to get back on track Saturday.
Looking to Build
CB Blessuan Austin – The numbers tell a very different story than the game film. Austin covered well, and even forced a coverage sack against Washington State. He is less than a year into his college career, and his rush into the spotlight is an unfortunate situation. But Austin continues to make the most of it and will be better for it in the long run.
Freshman to Watch
CB Isaiah Wharton – Wharton kept the plays in front of him against Wazzu, and was perhaps the most improved defensive back from week one to week two. Rutgers needs the red-shirt freshman to step up again, and this time he will see more down-the-field tests.