No. 9 Penn State (8-2, 6-1) at Rutgers (2-8, 0-6)
Time – 8 p.m., High Point Solutions Stadium, Piscataway, N.J.
TV/Radio – Big Ten Network, 1450 AM WCTC, 710 AM WOR, Tune In App
Series – Penn State leads 24-2
Last meeting – Sept. 19, 2015, Penn State won 28-3
Coaches: Rutgers – Chris Ash (1st season, 2-8); Penn State – James Franklin (7th season, 46-29, 3rd at Penn State, 22-14)
Offense: QB Giovanni Rescigno, RB Robert Martin, WR Jawuan Harris, WR Andre Patton, WR John Tsimis, TE Nick Arcidiacono, LT Tariq Cole, LG Dorian Miller, C Derek Nelson, RG Chris Muller, RT Kamaal Seymour
Defense: DE Darnell Davis Jr., DT Darius Hamilton, DT Sebastian Joseph, DE Julian Pinnix-Odrick, OLB Trevor Morris, MLB Deonte Roberts, OLB Tyreek Williams, CB Isaiah Wharton, CB Blessuan Austin, FS Saquan Hampton, SS Anthony Cioffi
Winter is Coming – It's hard to call any game a rivalry when one team wins 92 percent of the games in the series, but there will be a feeling of electricity in the building. While Rutgers fans deal with the frustrations of a rebuilding program, Penn State's James Franklin wants his fans to white out the stadium and invade Rutgers' campus. With a favorable path to the Big Ten championship game for Penn State, Rutgers fans would love to pull off an upset as massive underdogs.
The Last Ride– This is the remnants of a senior class that held together for two coaching changes, and they deserve honors for it. With three-time team captain Darius Hamilton as an anchor and three other captains from the recruiting class, they say goodbye to High Point Solutions Stadium against a school where “bad blood” only tells a fraction of the story.
Bamboo Trees and Foundations – Read the words or watch the comments of any departing Rutgers senior this week. The results are not there, but they believe in the foundation under construction with coach Chris Ash. While the results are one of the worst statistical seasons in Rutgers history, Ash says a time will come when every Rutgers game is sold out with a home crowd. While nobody expects an immediate miracle, some tangible progress against a team like Penn State would go a long way.
Matchup to Watch
Rutgers LB Trevor Morris vs Penn State RB Saquon Barkley
Rutgers' leading tackler is not healthy, but Morris is motivated against his home-state school. After Barkley torched Rutgers last season with more than 200 yards from scrimmage and two scores, the former Kyle Flood commit wants to do it again with the spotlight on. Morris played better since his bye week, and has more reps than any other Rutgers linebacker this season on his way to a likely 100-tackle season.
Scarlet Knights win if …
Penn State Overlooks Them – Michigan State is already the trendy “trap game” pick for Penn State and a run to the Big Ten title game. Will that make the Nittany Lions take Rutgers for granted? Franklin is looking at the better team when he addresses his players before the game, but Ash's players will give it their all on senior night.
Nittany Lions Win if …
Rutgers Sets a Record – Michael Cintron sets a Big Ten record with nine punts against Penn State. Fifteen also means a Rutgers record. Should the Piscataway native set either one Saturday night, it means the Rutgers offense remained stuck in the Alabama mud against an impressive and hungry Penn State defense.
RB Robert Martin – Martin was significantly more involved in a return from injury, and after 2.3 yards per carry in Rutgers' last two games against Penn State's defense, it is time to make a difference. Martin's Harrisburg roots will have him amped up against Penn State.
Something to Prove
CB Blessuan Austin – Fresman Damon Hayes played quite well against Michigan State. While Austin has every right to return to his starting role after an injury held him out of action, competition in the cornerback room is a good thing.
Looking to Build
LB Deonte Roberts – A linebacker cannot be judged solely upon the number of tackles he makes, but after 17 of them against Michigan State, Roberts has plenty of film to build on his most recent performance at middle linebacker.
Freshman to Watch
DB K.J. Gray – Rutgers is not a good special teams group right now but watch this freshman out of Jersey City (N.J.) St. Peter's Prep on kickoffs. Gray makes plays, and may have caught the “nose for the football” bug from Anthony Cioffi.