Written By Sammy Jacobs (@Hoosier_Huddle)
The Hoosiers enter their homecoming match-up with the Scarlet Knights at 4-2. If we told fans at the beginning of the season that IU would be two wins shy of a bowl berth at the halfway mark, I believe they would sign up for that. However, there is a nervous feeling around the fan base as the Hoosiers have come back to Earth with two straight losses and a rash of critical injuries to key players. If the Hoosiers come out of this week's contest at 5-2 they are sitting pretty for the rest of the season. So what exactly needs to happen for IU to get its season back on track?
1. Sudfeld and Howard Have To Play
The Hoosiers offense needs a shot in the arm and the man to deliver that is senior quarterback Nate Sudfeld. IU can survive without the services of running back Jordan Howard if Sudfeld is under center. They need to me multi-dimensional on offense to keep an aggressive Rutgers defense from keying on just stopping the run. Sudfeld, when healthy, takes this offense to another level, but the guys at quarterback behind him just are not ready to carry the load. It is very simple. Nate Sudfeld, if able to, has to play.
At the time of publication it still looks like it will be a game time decision regarding both players.
2. The Offensive Line Needs To Re-Establish Itself
The Hoosier offensive line went through the grinder the last two weeks facing both Ohio State and Penn State, but it is time for this talented unit to re-establish their dominance. Over the past two games, both losses, the Hoosiers have allowed their opponents to total 18 tackles for loss and five sacks. To put that in prospective, IU allowed just 15 TFL's and two sacks over the first four games.
3. Don't Let Carroo Beat You
Rutgers best player is wide receiver Leonte Carroo. He torched the Hoosiers a season ago with five catches, 125 yards, and two touchdowns. Brian Knorr and the defensive staff cannot let this guy beat them again. Big play are going to happen, but the defense needs to know where Carroo is at all times. In 2.5 games this season he has 14 catches for 315 yards and six touchdowns.
4. Stop The Run
Rutgers features four running backs who are all pretty darn good. They will try and establish the run game and work their aerial attack off of that. If the Hoosiers can limit the run game to 3.5 or fewer yards per carry then can make the Knights one-dimensional and then work on containing Carroo. IU's run defense has be OK out side of a handful on long runs.
5. Cash In Turnovers For Points
In the first four wins of the season the Hoosiers were terrific in converting turnovers to points. They forced eight turnovers and cashed that in for 48 points (six points per TO). In the two losses the Hoosiers forced four turnover and only scored 10 points (2.5 points per TO). If the Hoosiers do get the ball back on sudden changes they need to take full advantage of the situation. They cannot leave opportunities on the field on Saturday.
This is an absolute must win for the Hoosiers before hitting the road for the match-up against Michigan State for the Old Brass Spittoon. Rutgers is struggling and have their own issues with their program. A win would calm the nerves of a lot of fans as well as put a smile on the faces of all the alumni who are back in town for homecoming weekend, who have not seen the Hoosiers prevail on this day in the Kevin Wilson Era.