Purdue at Penn State (Under 53.5) - 12:30pm Pacific - Game #107-108
The Nittany Lion defense has been formidable all season long. They rank #23 in the nation in total defense and #12 in the nation in scoring defense. At home they have been especially impressive allowing just 12.8ppg. They were particularly dominant in their only two Big 10 home games to date as they held Ohio State and Minnesota to an average of just 12 points and 258 total yards. Standout LB Dan Connor missed the first three games of the season for disciplinary reasons but has started each of the last three games and has averaged 10 tackles per game. His return has bolstered an already b defense. Offensively Penn State QB Michael Robinson has cut down his interceptions in last four games but still has seven for the season. He remains plagued by inconsistency and his completion percentage of 53.8% leaves something to be desired. PSU suffered a blow losing #2 receiver Derrick Williams to injury for the season two games back. He was not missed last week in blowout win over Illinois but his absence will be felt against better teams.
Purdue made a QB change going with a younger and much more inexperienced player in freshman Curtis Painter last week. In his first career start vs a suspect Wisconsin defense he went 21-for-43 with 3 interceptions. Even with that game under his belt he will have a much tougher time against what will be the best defense Purdue has faced all season. The Boilermakers are also young and thin on the offensive line. The Penn State defensive line should give them fits. Defensively, Purdue had been awful in four straight games but showed signs of life last week holding Wisconsin to 232 total yards. It was probably their best defensive effort of the season. This week they get back the services of starting fifth year senior free safety Kyle Smith who has missed the last few games due to injury. Smith will provide some much needed experience and leadership to a secondary that has had more than its share of troubles.
Defenses have had the upper hand in this series. The two teams scored a combined total of 42 in 2000, 42 again in 2003, and just 33 (20-13 Purdue win) last season. Don't expect this one to get over 50.
Official Play: Under 53.51 UNIT
Navy at Rutgers (-6.5) - 12:30pm Pacific - Game #149-150
At 5-2, Rutgers is just one win away from becoming bowl eligible and they have not been to a bowl game since 1978. For as far as they have come this season, they are not about to slip up now. I have talked a lot this season about how this is one of the most experienced teams in the country. They returned 17 starters from last year and are dominated by upperclassmen on both sides of the ball. The Scarlet Knights are loaded with talented skill position players on offense. The game and a half experiment of freshman QB Mike Teel ended with a shoulder injury last week and 5th year senior Ryan Hart will again take over the reigns. Hart came off the bench to throw for 94 yards last week and will be making his 33rd career start. I also talked last week about the emergence of freshman RB Raymell Rice. After being slowed by injury and inexperience early in the season, Rice has looked sharp in recent games and really emerged last week with a 217 yard rushing performance against UConn. He joins a backfield that already has an all conference fullback in standout Brian Leonard. Rutgers only averaged 2.5 yards per carry on the ground last season but have improved to 4.2 this season. Last year they passed for 390 yards vs Navy while struggling to run the ball. This year they will be much more balanced and should put up big offensive numbers. I am a little more concerned on how the Rutgers defense matches up, but they have also improved significantly since last season. Head coach Greg Schiano is his own defensive coordinator this year and the team has only allowed 18.7 points and 347.9 yards per game. Both huge improvements from last year. Most important for this matchup is the run defense which is allowing 3.1ypc down from 4.3 last year.
Navy is 4-2 and has won four games in a row, but taking a closer look they have not been very impressive. They were fortunate to pull out a come from behind 3 point win over Air Force at home, their lone meaningful win of the season. The other three teams they have beaten Rice, Duke, and Kent State are a combined 0-19 vs Division 1-A teams. They had to survive to hold of Duke by 6 and Kent State by only 3. Last week they did not have to do much as Rice shot themselves in the foot with penalties, turnovers, and special teams errors throughout the game in a 41-9 win. Senior QB Lamar Owens has shown questionable durability leaving more games with minor injuries than he has finished this season including last week at Rice where he limped off the field. Head coach Paul Johnson likes to schedule his BYE weeks so that the team never plays too many consecutive games and has extra time to prepare for quality opponents. Navy was supposed to have a BYE last week but had to make up the game vs Rice and will now being playing their fifth straight game and second straight on the road.
Navy came off a BYE week and blasted Rutgers 54-21 last November. It was part of a five game losing streak for the Scarlet Knights. They are playing much better this year and have a lot more on the line. The revenge factor will only add to their focus. Rutgers fans finally have something to cheer about and homecoming week will only add to the atmosphere. Rutgers is 7-3 ATS last 10 games vs non-conference opponents. Give the points.