In the first conference game for both teams, two great football names collide tonight as the Penn State Nittany Lions visit the Rutgers Scarlet Knights in Piscataway, NJ. Penn State comes in as the underdog (-3.5) against what’s expected to be a powerful Rutgers squad playing its first game in the Big Ten conference. Both teams are 2-0 this season in non-conference play. Penn State faithful are still getting used to seeing its sideline patrolled by someone other than Joe Paterno, and hopes for the James Franklin era are high. Franklin, in his first year as head coach for the Nittany Lions, could really add some sparkle to his honeymoon on the job with a road win at Rutgers. High Point Solutions Stadium should be filled with fanatical fans tonight, roaring against the Lions.
They’ll be roaring for Rutgers’ senior QB Gary Nova and sophomore RB Paul James, who have looked terrific in early wins against Howard and Washington State. Rutgers can score–and will need to. The Rutgers defense looks susceptible to the pass–but then so does everyone who plays Washington State, which spends more time in the air than the MetLife blimp. Maybe Rutgers will be stronger against more grounded Big Ten foes. There’s also the chance that Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg might make like Washington State and air it out for Penn State. But that’s an unlikely strategy, especially on the road. This is an even matchup. Washington State was getting 8.5 points and came within three (41-38) of knocking off the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers is getting the 3.5 tonight mostly because they’re home. But if Gary Nova and Paul James, who has averaged 5 yards a carry, feel at home, James Franklin will have his first loss. Penn State fans think it’ll be more like Penn State 45, Rutgers 10–and James Franklin will get a warm Big Ten welcome. Rutgers welcome then, not so warm.