2016 Season Preview: Novemeber 5th at Rutgers

Written By Sammy Jacobs (@Hoosier_Huddle)

Week Ten: Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Date and Time: Saturday, November 5th TBA
Venue: High Point Solution Stadium, Piscataway, NJ (Capacity 47,130) 

Scarlet Knights at a Glace

Head Coach: Chris Ash
-    1st Year as a Head Coach
-    Overall Record (0-0)
-    At Rutgers (0-0)
-    Last Year: 4-8 (1-7)

Scarlet Knights Returning Leaders

Passing: Chris Laviano (60.9 Comp pct. 2,247 Yards, 16 TDs, 12 Int)
Rushing: Robert Martin (141 Att. 763 Yards, 6 TD, 5.4 YPC)
Receiving: Andre Patton (34 Rec. 432 Yards, 1 TDs)
Defender: Isaiah Wharton (CB 57 Tackles, 3 TFLs, 1 Int, 10 PBUs)

Preseason Predictions

Athlon: 7th in the Big Ten East
Lindy’s: 7th in the Big Ten East
Phil Steele: 7th in the Big Ten East
Sporting News: 7th in the Big Ten East

Why the Scarlet Knights Will Win

The Scarlet Knights are in a full-on rebuild mode in 2016 as they replace former head coach Kyle Flood with former Ohio State assistant Chris Ash. However, this is a game that Rutgers could pick up a Big Ten win because of several reasons. First, they are not devoid of talent as they return a veteran quarterback in Chris Laviano and a two-headed monster at running back with Josh Hicks and Robert Martin.

Laviano won the job after fellow quarterback Hayden Rettig despite being suspended for the first half of the opener. Laviano finished 2015 as the team’s questioned starter at quarterback and will be looking to be a bigger playmaker in 2016. Despite losing record-breaking wide out Leonte Carroo who caught 10 touchdowns in limited action, Rutgers returns seven of their top eight receivers and will look to dynamic return man Janarion Grant to fill Carroo’s shoes.

If the aerial attack is struggling, the Scarlet Knights can lean on one of the best running back tandems in the Big Ten, in Josh Hicks and Robert Martin. Combined they ran for 1,437 yards and 10 touchdowns and will get more touches with the graduation of Paul James who had 99 carries and 560 yards rushing. Having two solid backs will keep them fresh and that is huge come November when the Big Ten schedule wears a team down.

Rutgers also gets a major boost on defense with the return of former five-star lineman Darius Hamilton to bolster an already very experienced and talented defensive line. Rutgers was decimated by injuries in the secondary in 2015, but the experienced gained should pay dividends in 2016.

Finally, Rutgers should know what kind of team they will be by the time Indiana rolls into town on November 5th. Piscataway is not an easy place to play either as they were nearly at 100 percent capacity all last season (91%). The crowd is loud and into the game. Add in the fact that the Scarlet Knights are 2-0 against the Hoosiers since they joined the Big Ten, traveling to Piscataway will be no easy task. 

Why the Hoosiers Will Win

The 2015 loss to the Scarlet Knights should be in the memory of this edition of the Hoosier squad and fuel their preparations and practice habits. Rutgers can be a dangerous team to play on the road, however they will also be losing a ton of talent off of a squad that finished just 4-8 last year that led to a coaching change.

Any time a team changes a head coach, it usually takes some time to adjust to new schemes. Chris Ash will bring more of a spread offense to Rutgers and replace the pro-style offense that Kyle Flood ran. Can quarterback Chris Laviano fit his set of skills into the offense or can Ash tweak his offense to fit his quarterback? 

Rutgers offense takes a major hit with the departure of Leonte Carroo, had five touchdowns in two games against IU and the Scarlet Knights were just a much better team with him on the field. Even though Rutgers does return seven of their top eight receivers, those seven only combined for just 1,492 yards and seven touchdowns. Carroo, alone had 809 yards and 10 touchdowns. Without a passing game can Rutgers be as effective with their running game? Probably not.

Last year’s game was a 55-52 shootout that left a lot to be desired on defense. That will be the issue again for Rutgers as they lose their top three tacklers in linebackers Steve Longa, Quentin Gause, and Kaiwan Lewis. IU will have their offense figured out one way or another on November fifth and if they are clicking on all cylinders it will be extremely difficult to stop. Indiana should be able to score enough points to pull out another road Big Ten victory. 

Final Analysis

This is a true toss up game for the Hoosiers. It’s a game they could very well win by double digits, but, as we learned last year, Rutgers is a tough out and playing on the road is not easy. Even though Indiana has more talent across the board, Rutgers has enough talent coming back to be dangerous. The Hoosiers have to come to play if they want to beat the Scarlet Knights for the first time.

Hoosiers Win Probability: 55%