Written by: TJ Inman (@TJHoosierHuddle)
What: Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Indiana Hoosiers
When: Saturday, October 17 at 3:30
Where: Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, IN
How to Watch: The game will be broadcast on BTN. You can also listen to the game on the IU Radio Network.
Gameday Events: It’s Homecoming week for the Hoosiers! The festivities begin on Friday night (October 16) with a parade and pep rally beginning at 5:30 p.m. on Kirkwood Avenue. As a part of Homecoming weekend, the Varsity Club will be celebrating “Varsity Club Day”, the “I-Association” will recognize former IU athletes who their earned their first varsity letter 50-years ago this year and the Hoosiers 1945 football team will be honored. 75 years ago, the 1945 Hoosiers went undefeated and were B1G Champions.
Other events include the Indianapolis Colts College Tailgate Tour (East Concourse) and of course, tailgating at Hoosier Village. Shelia Stephen & The Rodeo Monkeys (I have no clue who this music group is but that’s a great name) will be playing live music on the Main Stage.
What’s at Stake: Indiana needs to win this game to keep the positive momentum this season has garnered. After four straight victories to begin the season, Indiana has lost back-to-back games. Those losses are completely understandable but this week’s game is crucial to stay on track for bowl eligibility. The Hoosiers travel to East Lansing next Saturday and then have a bye week. Nick Mangieri told Hoosier Huddle the Hoosiers know the importance of Saturday’s game.
“We obviously know this is a huge game. Homecoming, coming off of two losses, we need to get back on track and win this game,” Mangieri said.
A Few Things to Look For
1. Game-Changing Ability
Very few players are capable of completely changing the game every time they touch the ball but the Indiana Hoosiers will see one of those rare guys on Saturday afternoon. Rutgers wide receiver Leonte Carroo has 97 catches and 25 touchdowns during his career but his senior season has been rocky (to say the least). Carroo was suspended for the first half of the first game of the season but erupted in the second half for 129 receiving yards and three touchdowns. He was held in check for only 52 yards against Washington State and then was indefinitely suspended following an incident outside the stadium and subsequent charges of battery. He missed the contests against both Penn State and Kansas but the charges were then dropped and he returned to burn Michigan State for 134 yards and another three touchdowns.
Indiana fans may remember the 125 yards and two touchdowns Carroo had in last season’s matchup. Rashard Fant is going to be the man charged with covering Carroo and attempting to prevent him from ripping apart the secondary. I would expect to see Jonathan Crawford shaded toward Carroo to provide Fant with some assistance and it will be critical for the IU secondary to not suffer any breakdowns in coverage because any mistake against Carroo will be punished swiftly by a score.
2. Running Back Rotation
Rutgers has a talented stable of running backs that I thought would help create one of the best running games in the conference. However, I can’t help but feel like the Rutgers running game has been a bit of a disappointment. When watching them, it seems like they should running the ball more often than they do and the statistics seem to back that up. Josh Hicks leads the team in carries (69), rushing yards (396 yards) and touchdowns (4). Robert Martin and Paul James are both averaging 5.8 yards per carry. It’s unclear which back will receive the bulk of the work on Saturday but the Hoosiers will need to prevent the running game from getting on track. Penn State held this group to 1.3 yards per rush but Michigan State surrendered 4.4 yards per carry.
Zach Shaw spoke to Hoosier Huddle about the Rutgers running game, “They (Rutgers) try to get after us with the run first, but if you can stop the run you make them one-dimensional in the game so we have to stop the run.”
Indiana’s defense has been fairly solid against the run when they have their normal defensive line available (minus Ezekiel Elliott!). FIU ran it for 3.7 yards per carry, WKU averaged 3.2 yards per carry, Wake Forest had a 3.1 ypc average and Penn State managed 4.8 yards per carry. I think keeping the Scarlet Knights at 4 yards per carry (or less) would be a solid accomplishment and would help set IU up for victory.
3. The IU Offense Needs to Get Healthy
The injuries on offense have been well-documented. Nate Sudfeld and Jordan Howard both missed part of the Ohio State game and all of the Penn State game. They are both practicing and progressing well but their status for Saturday’s game is unknown. The Hoosiers absolutely need this game and they’ll need both of their offensive stars to feel good about their chances. Assuming the offensive leaders are able to play, IU should be able to have some success against the Scarlet Knights defense. Rutgers surrendered 559 yards to Washington State, 471 to Penn State, 342 to Kansas (one of the worst offenses in the country) and 489 yards to Michigan State. They only surrender 24.6 points per game (61st in the country) but S&P+ puts them as the 109th ranked unit.
Rutgers brings a lot of pressure but that pressure isn’t necessarily hitting home. Kemoko Turay leads the Scarlet Knights in sacks but he only has two on the season. On paper, the secondary is the weakest part of the defense. They are surrendering a high completion percentage and a lot of passing yards and Nate Sudfeld should be able to have a lot of success (if he can play). Hopefully, the Hoosier receivers have been able to refocus and the drops we have seen in the past two weeks are a thing of the past.
4. Keep on Winning the Turnover Battle
IU has done a very nice of taking care of the ball on offense and forcing turnovers on defense. In total, the Hoosiers are +9 which is good for 5th in the nation. Rutgers, on the other hand, is not nearly as successful in this department. The Scarlet Knights are -6 (111th in the country). They didn’t turn it over against Michigan State but had three against Kansas, three against Penn State and three against Washington State.
This is expected to be a close game so winning the turnover battle could tip the scales in favor of the Hoosiers.
5. Back on the Sidelines
Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood returns to the sidelines for the first time since their September 12 loss to Washington State. Flood was suspended for a violation of Rutgers policy by contacting a professor and scheduling a meeting to discuss the academic eligibility of former defensive back Nadir Barnwell. Flood emailed the professor with a private account and didn’t wear Rutgers gear to avoid being recognized. He has since acknowledged making corrections to the player in questions paper in an attempt to improve it.
I have no clue how he is still employed by an academic institution after breaking policy, lying and cheating but he’ll be coaching on Saturday against the Hoosiers.