As has been custom for most of the season, we took the opportunity to reach out to an opposing writer to learn a little about the enemy. This week we talked with RUFanJerry, host of the RBig Show podcast for his insight on the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. I want to thank Jerry for his thoughtful answers.
1. What concerns you the most about facing Indiana?
My answer here is not about X and O’s. What concerns me the most is a loss. That is not to be taken that Rutgers is expected to win, but rather than this is a game they should and need to win. A loss here would push the team to 2-4 with a brutal stretch of games upcoming of Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan and Nebraska in a row. Rutgers needs to win this game, one of the previous four – and against Army and Maryland to be bowl eligible. The win-loss record could snowball very quickly to at least 2-7 with a loss here. That could present all kinds of recruiting issues with the current existing class as well create a storm of negativity around a program that does not need any more such attention. It is not a stretch to say that Coach Kyle Flood will be coaching for his job Saturday.
2. What can Rutgers exploit on the Indiana defense?
Rutgers will try and exploit the Hoosier’s run defense. This is what Rutgers does and this is what they have to do. QB Chris Laviano is not going to beat you vertically, but rather on play action, rollouts and passes to the outside, primarily to Leonte Carroo. In order for that plan to develop Rutgers will need to run the ball effectively. The Hoosiers’ defense was not ripped apart against Penn State – giving up 154 yards on 32 carries – but then again the Nittany Lions were without their best back in former Rutgers commit Saquon Barkley. Instead Penn State took the air with Christian Hackenberg attempting 39 passes. Nevertheless, this is a defensive line that the offensive line of Rutgers should be able to find success against.
3. What kind of impact is the return of Kyle Flood going to have?
I would expect that this will not be as big of impact as some might expect. Flood is not a play caller. He does not call the offense or defense on game day. He also was still involved with the practices during his suspension. He was basically only suspended for game day Saturdays. All that changes is the game day routine with Flood back in charge. For the record, Norries Wilson did a very good job filling in for Flood and deflecting some of the attention to himself as well as handling the press.
4. Rutgers has a stable of terrific running backs. How do coaches determine who gets the carries?
It is definitely a committee approach. Four running backs will play. However, the three headed monster of Josh Hicks, Robert Martin and Paul James does have a leader and that is Hicks. James ripped off a 72-yard run early in the Michigan State game and while you would have expected to see more of him as the “hot hand” he did not carry the ball again. Hicks is the most trusted back and the coaching philosophy is to keep the group healthy – in particular the oft-injured James – for the long haul. Each of three will continue to carry the ball each game. Justin Goodwin is the receiving back.
5. It looks as if Chris Lavanio has clearly won the job at QB? What is the feeling around that position battle?
It was hard to pass full judgement on Laviano’s season as he only had one game and a half with the conference’s best receiver in Leonte Carroo. This game represented an opportunity for all to see what the game plan and philosophy of the offense truly is. The game plan is pretty simple: run the ball, keep Laviano in short yardage situations on third down, get him moving and get the ball to Carroo on the outside – and often. While many– including myself – would have liked to have seen some of backup Hayden Rettig in specific moments this season, this is clearly Laviano’s team. He does what is being asked him and executes Rutgers’ game plan. The challenge is when the team faces large deficits does he have the ability to move the ball vertically?
6. Who are some other players IU fans should keep an eye on?
Keep a close eye on Rutgers linebackers and in particular #14 Kaiwan Lewis. Outside backer Steve Longa heads the unit but Lewis will be counted on heavily to help Rutgers shut down the run against Indiana. The middle linebacker and graduate transfer from South Carolina has been very active the last two games and could be getting more comfortable each game.
7. What does Rutgers have to do to win this game?
Check the injury report. There is a big drop-off from at the quarterback position Nate Sudfield to either Zander Diamont or Danny Cameron for Indiana. Diamont is also injured. The Hoosiers will have a tough time winning with Cameron at the helm. UAB running back transfer Jordan Howard is also questionable. On the football field, Rutgers will need to run the ball effectively. If they can, they will be able manage the field position game and put up enough points to win the game.