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Pennsylvania State University

Rutgers Scarlet Knights running back Raheem Blackshear (25) celebrates his touchdown against the Purdue Boilermakers with Rutgers Scarlet Knights tight end Jerome Washington (88) in the 3rd quarter at High Point Solutions Stadium. (Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports)
Rutgers Scarlet Knights running back Raheem Blackshear (25) celebrates his touchdown against the Purdue Boilermakers with Rutgers Scarlet Knights tight end Jerome Washington (88) in the 3rd quarter at High Point Solutions Stadium. (Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports)

Even before No. 14 Penn State lost its last two games, Nittany Lions coach James Franklin believes his team lost its way.

The Lions (7-2, 4-2 Big Ten) will try to regain their bearings in time for Saturday's homecoming matchup against resurgent Rutgers (4-5, 3-3).

Penn State followed up a 39-38 loss at Ohio State with a 27-24 defeat last week at Michigan State, and Franklin told reporters afterward that his team was "too finesse" and had allowed "a lot of noise" to become a distraction -- the latter a reference to talk of a berth in the conference championship game and/or College Football Playoff...

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Nov 12, 2016; East Lansing, MI, USA; Rutgers Scarlet Knights quarterback Giovanni Rescigno (17) attempts to throw the ball during the second half of a game against the Michigan State Spartans at Spartan Stadium. Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 12, 2016; East Lansing, MI, USA; Rutgers Scarlet Knights quarterback Giovanni Rescigno (17) attempts to throw the ball during the second half of a game against the Michigan State Spartans at Spartan Stadium. Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

The door to a berth in the Big Ten Championship Game is wide open for Penn State and what was unthinkable just weeks ago -- a shot at the four-team College Football Playoff -- is within reach. The question now is: Can the injury-riddle Nittany Lions (8-2, 6-1 Big Ten) limp through it?

No. 9 Penn State, ranked eighth in this week's College Football Playoff poll, is expected to play without its top three offensive tackles when it travels to Piscataway, N.J., to play Rutgers (2-8, 0-7) on Saturday.

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