Breaking it down: PSU, Rutgers storylines aplenty for B1G opener
Who: Rutgers vs. Penn State
When: Saturday, 8 p.m. ET
Where: Beaver Stadium, Penn State
TV: Big Ten Network
Spread: Penn State -9
Matchup to watch: Kemoko Turay vs. Paris Palmer
Christian Hackenberg might have even more reason to worry about his blind side. Turay is one of the top emerging pass-rushers not only in the Big Ten, but in the entire country. Tasked with keeping him off Hackenberg will be Paris Palmer, who regained his starter status after Andrew Nelson went down with a first-half injury against Buffalo. Palmer and the Penn State line didn’t allow a sack after he came in. That, however, was Buffalo. Turay might not be at full strength yet because of an upper body injury. That might be the only thing capable of slowing down the freakish sophomore.
Thing I’m excited for: Saquon Barkley’s encore
I’ve been all aboard the “Akeel-Lynch-needs-more-touches” bandwagon, but I might need to rethink that after what Saquon Barkley showed last week. The freshman tailback got one touch in the opener and none in the first half against Buffalo. James Franklin gave Barkley a shot in the second half and he certainly didn’t disappoint. His 112 yards gave Penn State the breathing room it desperately needed. And what about that hurdle? Lynch could still have the starter tag and might still be the preferred back. But we should see a much heavier dose of Barkley than we did in his first six quarters.
Number to remember: 3
That’s how many touchdown returns Janarion Grant already has in 2015. Most guys don’t get that in a career, much less two games. The Rutgers speedster did his best to will the Scarlet Knights to a victory last week with his two fourth-quarter touchdowns. He also proved to be a threat as a receiver, which couldn’t have come at a better time for the Scarlet Knights. With Leonte Carroo suspended indefinitely, the Scarlet Knights need playmakers to emerge in a hurry. Without the help of some home run plays, it could be a long day for the Rutgers offense.
Prediction: Penn State 14, Rutgers 13
This one has all the makings of an ugly bout. Interim Rutgers coach Norries Wilson is taking over a shaky situation, to say the least. For as many problems Penn State has had on the field in 2015, Rutgers has had even more off it. I don’t think the Lions repeat their zero-sack performance, but the Scarlet Knights shifting offense will be bottled up by Anthony Zettel and Co. It won’t be the prettiest way for Penn State to get on the board, but another win after the Temple opener is about all the Lions can ask for.