If not for a little spell of Hack-magic in the final minutes, they just may have pulled off an upset but it wasn’t meant to be and Rutgers fell 13-10. They may have lost the game that night inside High Point Stadium, but they did lay the blueprint that Big Ten defenses would follow by stacking the box and exposing a miserably depleted O-Line that would ultimately haunt Penn State right up until the first half of 2016. Of course, since that night In Piscataway, the wheels have completely fallen off of the Scarlet Knight’s program. Not only fallen off but disenegrated. They’ve been labeled a dumpster fire by the talking heads. A program that was supposed to benefit from its inclusion into one of if not the premier conferences in college athletics has completely come apart at the seams instead. They have a new head coach, a dismal record, and absolutely zero chance of becoming Penn State's rival. Not now, not ever. They’re a team that has been outscored by a combined 185-0 to the Big Three of Ohio State, Michigan State, and Michigan with a rejuvenated Nittany Lion offense looming. They’re 2-8 overall and going nowhere fast.
Penn State on the other hand, sits at the polar opposite end of the spectrum. They’ve managed to climb back into the rankings for the first time since 2011 and currently sit at a very solid No. 8 in this week’s latest College Football Playoff rankings. They are In a three-way dogfight for first place in the highly coveted Big Ten East with a more than a fighters chance at winding up in the conference title game in Indianapolis. The disaster in Ann Arbor, Michigan back on September 24th may have been rock bottom, but ever since, they have been one of the nation’s most dangerous squads. One that has stared adversity in its eyes and risen to the occasion time and again. They’re 8-2 and ride a six-game winning streak. It’s the first time since 1994 that the Nittany Lions have won six conference games in a row during the same season. It’s an offense that has put up 40+ points three games in a row, and show no signs of slowing down. The O-Line is the latest to fall victim to the injury bug, but again, this team has dealt with adversity and it doesn’t seem to rattle their cage.
For the record, as I sat down to work on this piece, No. 5 Louisville was busy taking on the University of Houston. Louisville lost, and lost big. Bye-bye Louisville. Have I mentioned the word “destiny” yet? In case you need to be reminded, although destiny rests in our own hands, it’s always nice to get a little help along the way. On Thursday night, that help came from Louisville who now has played themselves right out of the conversation. Despite the 25-point spread and despite the exact opposite records, no game is bigger on Penn State’s schedule than the rematch under the lights in Piscataway. Despite the effort of Rutgers two years ago, it’s not a game of rivals, just a game between a team looking for answers and one that has its sights set on much higher aspirations. This band of rag-tag Lions has come too far to fall victim to looking ahead. It’s Knights Out for Rutgers: Penn State 48, “that team” from New Jersey, 13.