Written By Sammy Jacobs (@Hoosier_Huddle)
Welcome to the Birthplace of College Football, Piscataway, New Jersey on a beautiful fall day in the Northeast. The Indiana Hoosiers (3-6, 0-5) face off against the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers (5-4, 1-4) at 3:30. The Hoosiers come in on a four game losing streak, while the Knights are on a three game slide of their own in the first ever meeting between the two schools. It’s crisp outside for tailgating for grab a warm beverage or pull a chair up to the fire pit, or take a sit at on the couch at home and we’ll take a look at the keys to victory for the Indiana Hoosiers Saturday.
1. Get Tevin Coleman Going Early- The last three games the Hoosiers have faced some of the best rush defenses not only in the Big Ten, but the entire nation, and it has definitely showed in Coleman’s rushing statistics. He has not scored a touchdown since quarterback Nate Sudfeld went down against Iowa and has averaged 103.7 yards per game, which is not bad by any standards, but it is significantly lower than the production in the first seven games. There are several factors that have played into the dip in yards, but Coleman if the Hoosier offensive line plays well today, Coleman will have room to run. Rutgers is giving up 191.6 yards a contest which ranks 12th in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers need Coleman to find the end zone a couple of times if they want to leave the Garden State with their first Big Ten win of the year.
2. Throw for 100 Yards- Indiana freshman quarterback Zander Diamont was essentially thrown to the wolves in his first three games as a college player. It is no easy task going against the Michigan State, Michigan, and Penn State defenses. Today, he faces the 11th ranked defense in the Big Ten in Rutgers and should have an easier time completing passes. In his first three games Diamont has thrown for a total of 103 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. The Hoosiers need some threat of a passing game to loosen up the defense for the running game to do their thing.
3. Don’t Shoot Yourself in The Foot- Last week Indiana had many self inflicted wounds. The team had 10 penalties that cost them yards on drives they were moving the ball. Indiana looked like they had cleaned up that aspect of the game. It also did not help that the Indiana receivers dropped several passes that turned the game around. In order for the offense to put up some points Saturday, they were held scoreless last week, they have to do all of the little things correctly.
4. Rattle Nova’s Cage- The Indiana defense recorded five sacks last week and forced Christian Hackenberg into two interceptions. Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova has thrown 10 interceptions so far this season and Rutgers quarterbacks have been sacked 17 times in nine games. The Hoosier defensive line and linebackers brought pressure in last week’s loss and must do it again this week for IU to come away with a victory.
5. Win the Field Position Battle- The Hoosier offense has had enough problems moving the ball since Sudfeld was lost for the year, so winning the field position game becomes that much more important. The Hoosiers cannot rely on Tevin Coleman breaking three long touchdown runs every game. The offense needs to pick up more first downs and be able to flip field position when they are not scoring, while the defense needs to keep Rutgers to short drives that allow the Hoosiers to get the ball back in positive field position. Special teams will play a huge role today as well. The Hoosiers need to get the return game going more. Shane Wynn and J-Shun Harris are both dynamic returners, but the holes have not been there this season. The kicking game also needs to be a point of emphasis Saturday for Indiana. Rutgers comes into the matchup with over 35 blocked kicks since 2009. A blocked kick is a major game changing play and Rutgers is really terrific in that area.