For two years, the big question about Rutgers football has been how competitive the Scarlet Knights will be in the Big Ten.
Saturday night at 8, they'll start providing answers when they host Penn State at High Point Solutions Stadium in their first game in their new, prestigious conference (AP, Sept. 12).
Both teams are 2-0. Bur in terms of tradition and on-field success, Penn State is far ahead of the Knights, whose invitation had more to do with New Jersey's population and demographics. The game is on the Big Ten Network, an already profitable channel expected to benefit greatly by expanding into the Garden State.
"I think we just need to come out and play our game and show the world what we can do because a lot of people were writing us off at the beginning of the year," said Rutgers tight end Tyler Kroft from Downingtown, Pa. "I guess we're starting to get a little more attention now being 2-0 and heading into the Big Ten, but I think we need to come out and play how we can play: fast and physical. Show the world that we belong here and we're going to be a staple in the Big Ten."
New Penn State coach James Franklin tweaked Rutgers earlier in the year, saying the Knights would have trouble recruiting in their state against the Nittany Lions.
"I do think this game from a regional perspective is good for Pennsylvania," Franklin said this week. "I do think it's good for New Jersey and I think it's good for the Big Ten and I think it's good for both institutions. I think it's going to be a fun game and we're looking forward to playing it. But we have got tremendous respect for Rutgers, for what they have done on the football field and what they have done in the classroom."
OF NOTE: Penn State leads the series 22-2 and is 9-0 in games in New Jersey. The last time the teams met was in 1995 (a 59-34 Penn State win), Before that, they met every year starting in 1982 . .Rutgers gave up a school-record 532 yards passing to Washington State in the opener, then 269 yards rushing to FCS Howard last weekend. The Knights will have to stop Penn State sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg, who has thrown for 773 yards and four touchdowns. . . .The Nittany Lions defense gave up 27 points combined in beating Central Florida and Akron. Rutgers scored 79 points in its wins with running back Paul James running for four TDs and QB Gary Nova throwing for sis. The Nittany Lions have allowed 94 yards rushing on 54 carries . . .The game is a sellout, with the stadium's capacity of 52,452 a little less than half than that of Penn State's.