Written By Sammy Jacobs (@Hoosier_Huddle)
Welcome to the Homecoming Edition of Hoosier Huddle’s Season Preview. Today we take an initial look at the Hoosiers match up with the Scarlet Knights from Rutgers.
Week 7: Rutgers Scarlet Knights (Homecoming)
Time & Date: 3:30 p.m. Saturday Oct. 17th
Venue: Memorial Stadium (52,929 Bloomington, IN)
Scarlet Knights at a Glance:
Head Coach: Kyle Flood (4th year 23-16)
Last Season: 8-5 (3-5)
Scarlet Knights Returning Leaders:
Passing: Chris Lavanio (39.3% Completion, 107 Yds 0 TD 1 INT)
Rushing: Desmond Peoples (447 Yds, 3.9 Avg, 3 TD)
Receiving: Leonte Carroo (1,086 Yds, 19.7 Avg, 10 TD)
Tackles: Steve Longa (102 Tkl, 2.5 TFL, 1 PBU)
Preseason Magazine Predictions:
Lindy’s: 5th in the Big Ten East Division
Sporting News: 6th in the Big Ten East Division
Athlon Sports: 7th in the Big Ten East Division
Phil Steele: 7th in the Big Ten East Division
Why the Scarlet Knights could win:
Rutgers was the surprise of the 2014 Big Ten season, which saw the, win eight games including a 45-23 win over the Hoosiers. The Scarlet Knights return a ton of talent in 2015 headlined by All-Big Ten wide receiver Leonte Carroo and a healthy Paul James at running back.
Carroo is arguably Rutgers’s best player. The senior receiver has already been named to the Biletnikoff Award Watch List, which recognizes the nation’s top receiver. He is an explosive player who can score from anywhere on the field. He torched the Hoosiers in 2014 for 125 yards and two scores on only five receptions. You better believe that IU’s young secondary better be all grown up when ‘Roo comes to Bloomington for homecoming.
Rutgers can also run the ball extremely well and return their top six rushers from a year ago. The headliner is Paul James, who missed most of last season due to an ACL injury. Prior to going to down with the injury James had five touchdowns and averaged 5.8 yards per carry. Given his injury history it is unknown if James can make it into October healthy, but he does the Hoosiers better be ready to stop one of the nation’s best runners. In addition to James, Rutgers features four more running backs that ran for over 300 yards in 2014. Desmond People’s led the team with 447 yards followed closely by Josh Hicks with 440 yards. Hicks also averaged 6.4 yards a carry. The fourth back, Robert Martin, is no slouch either as he led the team with seven touchdowns while averaging 5.0 yards per carry. This stable of running backs should allow Kyle Flood and his offensive staff to keep everyone fresh and healthy.
The defense will also return its top two tacklers from last season in linebackers Steve Longa (102 tkls) and Quentin Gause (72 tkls), even though the unit game up 30 points per game.
If the game comes down to special teams, Rutgers has a dangerous return man in Janarion Grant. Grant is a junior wide out who was named All-Big Ten as a returner after averaging over 25 yards a return on kickoffs and 7 yards on punts. Rutgers also sports the best kick blocking unit in the nation.
Why They Won’t Pull it Off:
Despite returning a ton of talent on offense, Rutgers has one monster question hovering over the team. Who starts at quarterback? While the now departed Gary Nova was wildly inconsistent, the Scarlet Knights have some big shoes to fill. The top candidates for the job heading into fall camp are sophomore Chris Lavanio and sophomore Hayden Rettig, a transfer from LSU who sat out the 2014 campaign. Lavanio played in five games last year in relief of Nova, but hit on less than 40 percent of his passes for just 107 yards. Rettig is an unknown commodity, but was one of the top quarterbacks coming out of high school. Rutgers will also be affected by the retirement of offensive coordinator Ralph Friedgen, who worked wonders with the offense and especially Gary Nova.
Rutgers defense was shredded by a one dimensional Indiana offense last year when All-American Tevin Coleman torched them for 307 yards on the ground, and the defense loses a lot of experience on the side of the ball. The Scarlet Knights lose five of their top seven tacklers as well as 16 lettermen from a defense that gave up over 30 points a game and 6.4 yards per play. With a healthy Nate Sudfeld and Jordan Howard a part of the offense in 2015 the Hoosiers should be able to must more than 23 points against the Scarlet Knights.
The schedule should also play into IU’s favor, as Oct. 17th will be homecoming in Bloomington and Rutgers will be playing the sandwich game between home contests against Michigan State and Ohio State. That is the very definition of a trap game.
Hoosier Win Percentage:
These two programs will have a different look to them when they face off in mid-October, but the Hoosiers should have revenge on their mind as the Scarlet Knights knocked them out of bowl contention last season. Add in the fact that it should be a big homecoming crowd for a 3:30 start and it should equal a Hoosier victory. However, nothing is guaranteed in college football, especially with IU. This is a must win for IU to go bowling in 2015, I expect them to play like that and come out on fire.