Penn State Football

Here’s what you should keep an eye on in the Penn State-Rutgers football game

Penn State running back Saquon Barkley is closing in on a number of milestones and records. For one, he needs just 136 more rushing yards to become the third Nittany Lion to achieve three 1,000-yard seasons.
Penn State running back Saquon Barkley is closing in on a number of milestones and records. For one, he needs just 136 more rushing yards to become the third Nittany Lion to achieve three 1,000-yard seasons. Centre Daily Times, file

Penn State boasts an unreal record against Rutgers — a totally lopsided history that the Scarlet Knights are trying to chip away at on Saturday.

The Nittany Lions have won 25 of 27 meetings against Rutgers. The last time the Scarlet Knights got the better of the Nittany Lions was in 1988, when James Franklin was a student at Neshaminy High School.

In fact, that’s the last time Rutgers has defeated a ranked Big Ten opponent.

Rutgers isn’t supposed to end that drought on Saturday. The Nittany Lions are 31-point favorites after falling twice in a row.

Here’s what you should keep an eye on:

Saquon’s milestone watch

Saquon Barkley could realistically tie or break seven Penn State records on Saturday.

▪  The junior back is 136 rushing yards away from posting his third career 1,000-yard season. He’d be only the second Penn State running back to do that, joining Evan Royster.

▪  Arguably the biggest lock of the week, Barkley is 76 all-purpose yards from breaking Larry Johnson’s career mark of 5,045.

▪  He’s three catches away from setting a single-season receptions record for a Penn State running back. Barkley has 39 for his career, while Johnson tallied 41. The Coplay native would break the career receptions mark for a Penn State back in the process, as well.

▪  Two receiving touchdowns would set a new Penn State running back record, passing Eric McCoo’s nine.

▪  Barkley — who racked up 195 rushing yards on Rutgers as a true freshman — needs 200 or more on Saturday to tie Johnson’s career mark of four such games.

▪  If Barkley takes another kickoff to the house, he’d tie Curt Warner’s all-time record of three kickoff return touchdowns.

Awful aerial efforts

Rutgers has an utterly non-existent passing game.

The Scarlet Knights rank No. 121 nationally with 127.0 passing yards per game. Five of the eight schools with fewer yards through the air per game are triple-option programs.

Rutgers’ highest passing total this season — 198 yards — came in a 16-13 loss to Eastern Michigan. The Scarlet Knights haven’t had a 300-yard passer in 21 games.

Rutgers somehow has 10 passing plays of 30 yards or more through nine games, more than Michigan State, Northwestern, Indiana and Minnesota. But Jerry Kill’s offense ranks No. 127 nationally in offensive explosiveness, according to S&P+ analytical ratings.

Incredible on so many levels for a Power 5 program.

Jolting Janarion

Redshirt senior Janarion Grant — Rutgers’ big-play threat since 2013 — has dealt with injuries throughout his career, and this season is no different.

Grant missed Rutgers’ games against Nebraska and Ohio State and left the Michigan loss in the third quarter with an undisclosed issue.

He’s been effective in spots. The Florida native had a 65-yard scoring run in Ann Arbor and recorded a receiving touchdown in the opener against Washington.

But Grant didn’t play in the Scarlet Knights’ win over Maryland last week, and it’s unclear what kind of impact he’ll have on Saturday.

“Janarion Grant is always an issue, always a concern,” Franklin said at his Tuesday press conference. “So we need to be ready for that.”

Back on track

Penn State hasn’t run the ball with any effectiveness in recent weeks. The Nittany Lions have been held to less than 100 rushing yards as a team in four of the last five weeks.

Well, the Scarlet Knights could be the remedy to that.

In their last two games against Rutgers, the Nittany Lions have racked up 669 rushing yards on 90 carries (7.43 yards per attempt).

Trevor tackles

Expect to see No. 15 flying around the field on Saturday.

Rutgers linebacker Trevor Morris leads the team with 77 tackles through nine games.

Morris, a Malvern native, isn’t new to making plays, either. The junior guided the Scarlet Knight defense with 102 tackles in 2016 and made 10 stops against Penn State in last year’s meeting.

John McGonigal: 814-231-4630, @jmcgonigal9

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