After six games, Rutgers fans thought the defensive woes from last season were gone. They weren't perfect by any means, and the secondary was still wide open at times. But, a strong performance against Penn State and Michigan made everyone believe that Joe Rossi was making a difference and that the defense was slowly but surely returning to a vintage pressure and swarm unit.
Then Ohio State happened. Then Nebraska. And finally Wisconsin.
Sure they were the best offenses the conference had to offer. Two of those teams had Heisman contenders and one had a truly breakout quarterback. Now, Rutgers gets another shot at stopping a marquee offensive star. Tevin Coleman has been the key to the Hoosier offense all season, and now that Indiana's quarterback situation is in flux, this is the perfect opportunity for the Knights to prove to everyone that they can tackle and that they can stop the run.
Tevin Coleman IS the Hoosier offense
To say that Tevin Coleman is on a tear is an understatement. With no real threat of a passing attack, Indiana has relied heavily on the efforts of Coleman, and the junior running back has delivered. He's the second-leading rusher in the nation only to Melvin Gordon (another rusher who doesn't get much help from his quarterbacks). Despite everyone knowing that he's getting the ball after the snap, Coleman has managed to rush for at least 100 yards in 10 straight games until his streak ended against Penn State last week. Rutgers had a chance to stop a similar attack against Wisconsin, and failed considerably. This Saturday, they'll get another chance with much better conditions.
Rutgers might be a tad uncertain at quarterback heading into Saturday, but Scarlet Knight fans don't even know the meaning of quarterback injuries compared to what the Hoosiers have been through. It started in the offseason, when Tre Roberson transferred out of the program. Then, Nate Sudfeld was lost for the year against Iowa. In the same game, backup Chris Covington tore his ACL, leaving true freshman Zander Diamont to man the controls for Kevin Wilson's offense. He might have some promise, but Diamont is still a true freshman, and RU defensive coordinator Joe Rossi should have no trouble stopping the pass.
Struggling on defense
One of the biggest pain points for Indiana in 2013 was a defense that couldn't stop a nose bleed. This season, the improvements haven't been seen yet. Aside from a rush defense that ranks tenth in the conference, Indiana is either last or second-to-last in pass defense, total defense, and scoring defense. It's just what the doctor ordered for an offense that has had trouble with division-contending teams like Ohio State and Wisconsin. Ralph Friedgen needs to inject some confidence in the passing game and the rushing game, and Indiana is the best candidate to make those things happen.
Defensive lineman Bobby Richardson could disrupt a Rutgers offensive line that couldn't generate a decent running game or keep the quarterback in the pocket. He has 5.5 sacks on the season, good for 11th in the B1G. For the most part however, this should be a game where the Scarlet Knights can exploit a struggling defensive squad.
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This is absolutely a must-win for Kyle Flood. He's getting a pass for the three-game losing streak, which is understandable considering the caliber of opponents the last three weeks. Rutgers is favored on Saturday, which is most certainly the last time that will happen for the remainder of the season. A bowl game was doable before the season started, and after a 5-1 start, it should have been a matter of time until RU won game number six. If they don't get it this Saturday, it'll be a real challenge in the last two games.