Just when I thought it was safe to pronounce them dead, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights showed signs of life in the 1st half against Michigan last weekend.
It didn’t last very long. But Rutgers was able to cover a 39-point spread, blowing my ATS pick in the process.
Is Vegas over-compensating by putting a simple 4-touchdown + 4 XP point spread on the follow-up? Or is the less-outrageous line just a matter of PSU’s disappointing season compared to the hot campaign of the Wolverines?
Who: Penn State Nittany Lions at Rutgers Scarlet Knights
When: Saturday, November 17th, 12 PM EST
Where: Highpoint.com Stadium, Piscataway, NJ
Lines: PSU (-28) at Rutgers (+28) / O/U Total: (49.5)
Penn State has looked pretty good at times this season, but has struggled against the big guns of the Big Ten. With losses to Ohio State, Michigan State, and Michigan, James Franklin’s team may have already played its way out of a major bowl bid.
The bright spots on offense are in the backfield as usual. Senior QB and preseason Heisman candidate Trace McSorley has thrown for 1,871 yards, 13 TDs, and 5 INTs, a disappointing stat line that nonetheless has produced 7 wins. He has also added 620 yards on the ground with 9 rushing TDs. While certainly not performing at a Saquon Barkley level, junior RB Miles Sanders has shown that he is quite capable of carrying the rock as he’s run for 1,007 yards and 9 TDs and has another 130 in receiving yards.
The Nittany Lion defense hasn’t been outstanding, but beware their pass rush. Sophomore DE Yetur Gross-Matos who has 45 tackles, 8 sacks, and is seemingly around the ball on every play. The team as a whole has a whopping 34 sacks this year, good for 6th in the FBS.
If college football had a relegation system, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights would surely be sent down to the FCS after 2018. The program’s latest drubbing at the hands of the Michigan Wolverines has them sitting at 1-8.
Freshman RB Isaih Pacheco, who has 460 yards on the season as a whole, scored the lone Knight TD on an 80 yard run in the 1st quarter. But after that it was all downhill – or uphill depending on your metaphor. The offense punted 4 times in the 1st half, turned it over on downs, and lost possession at the end of the half.
Freshman QB Artur Sitkowski struggled mightily on the day albeit against what many consider to be a top 3 defense in the FBS. He went 8 of 19 for 40 yards with no TDs and a pick.
Chris Ash’s defense didn’t fare much better, but did contain big plays for the most part. Michigan QB Shea Patterson threw for 260 yards and 3 TDs. The defense was able to force Michigan to go out on downs in their first possession but then surrendered touchdowns on the next 3 Wolverine drives. Senior DB Saquan Hampton led the team with 11 tackles and senior LB Trevor Morris added 10 of his own.
Penn State played another strong game on defense against Wisconsin last weekend, despite giving up almost 200 yards rushing to Jonathan Taylor. But this is a betting-oriented blog, so instead of more painstaking details on last week’s action, how about a good old candid discussion of the Michigan-Rutgers ATS fiasco courtesy of App.com:
Jim Harbaugh inserted Joe Milton at quarterback, plus his second-string offensive line, late in the fourth quarter because he doesn’t care about the point spread. Seriously, though, bookmakers are amazing sometimes. This game opened with Rutgers as a 37.5-point underdog. The spread rose to 40 early in the week, and closed at 37. Chris Evans’ 61-yard touchdown run with 11:26 to play gave Michigan a 42-7 lead. Things looked good for a cover, but in came Milton, in came the subs, and everything went downhill if you laid the points. A late fourth-and-1 conversion by Jon Hilliman deep in Rutgers territory was the point-spread icing.
If you took the points, congratulations. If you decided to lay the wood, I would’ve done the same, but I’m sorry all the same. Not for nothing, if bowl-eligibility were based on the record vs. the spread, 5-5 Rutgers would be on the doorstep.
My question is not whether Penn State can hold off the Rutgers rushing attack. PSU made sure that Wisconsin didn’t get much through the air last Saturday, and Franklin seemed happy to allow Taylor to get his yards so long as Badger drives were only prolific between the 20 yard lines and not in the Red Zone.
If the Nittany Lions focus on stopping the Scarlet Knights’ run offense, they’ll stop it. That’s a big deal since Rutgers is very poor at the QB position and has given up trying to throw the ball in a lot of games.
But can Penn State score enough points to cover if Rutgers manages 10 points? Beset by injuries and opposing team adjustments, the Nittany Lions haven’t scored more than 33 points in a game since late September.
If PSU does win in a tremendous blowout, I’m thinking the score will be more like 35-3 as opposed to 71-14.
Take the under (49.5) for a winner at Rutgers.