Rutgers will look to build on their impressive performance against Michigan State as they head out to Bloomington for a must-win game against Indiana. If Rutgers wins, their bowl game hopes will survive. If they lose, the season will essentially turn into a lost cause.
At the time of this article, Indiana is a 6.5 point favorite, which is heavily reliant on Nate Sudfeld playing.
Sudfeld is without a doubt Indiana's most important player. A 4-star recruit with offers from UCLA and Arizona, Sudfeld chose Indiana with aspirations of being the face of the program. As a senior who has only played one full season, Sudfeld has still managed to be just that for the Hoosiers. He missed the majority of last season and sat out last week against Penn State. However, he should play against the Scarlet Knights on Saturday. With Sudfeld on the field, Indiana is a completely different team.
How Rutgers Wins
Score more points than Indiana
For those of you that don't know, Indiana gives up a lot of yards on defense. For example, they gave up 659 yards of offense against FCS opponent Southern Illinois. Nate Sudfeld posesses the abililty to expose the young Rutgers secondary. There is a very good chance that this game is a shootout and takes the form of Rutgers/Fresno State in 2013 or Rutgers/Wazzu in 2014. Rutgers will just have to get the ball with the perfect amount of time left on the clock.
Control Time of Possession
Little known fact: Indiana can't score points if they don't have the ball. Rutgers should be able to run the ball consistently against the Hoosiers and chew clock all game. Indiana runs an up-tempo spread offense similar to the Philadelphia Eagles and how they use the clock. If Rutgers can force a couple of early 3-and-outs, they can wear down the defense and take control of the game with their power offense.
For those of you wondering what this Rutgers motto means: "Trust. Belief. Accountability"
If Leonte Carroo was able to shred Michigan State, he should do the same against Indiana. Chris Laviano is as confident as he's ever been as a QB. Ben McDaniels should trust his QB to throw the ball down the field to one of the most dominating players in the conference. McDaniels needs to believe in his offense and let them roll. If McDaniels does this, the offensive players need to hold themselves accountable for executing plays and not letting their coaches down. This is a clear formula for success.
How Rutgers Loses
Secondary returns to "Wazzu form"
If the secondary and Joe Rossi decide to play how they did against Washington State, this game will not be a good one for Knights fans. As I mentioned earlier, Nate Sudfeld is an incredibly capable QB who can expose porous defenses. The secondary needs to be on its "A-game" or else this one could be ugly.
No false starts. No illegal formations. No kickoffs out of bounds. No holding penalties on 3rd down. No chop blocks. No personal fouls. None of that crap. Please.
This is a new stat created by Football Outsiders that plenty of Rutgers fans should know plenty about. From FO:
This is a new metric called Air Less EXpected, or ALEX for short. ALEX measures the average difference between how far a quarterback threw a pass (air yards) and how many yards he needed for a first down.
Essentially, this is the 5-yard out route on 3rd and 8. Please none of this.
Josh Hicks/Robert Martin/Paul James
The three true running backs on the roster will need to have huge games. Last year, Hicks and Martin carried the team to victory against the Hoosiers. With Paul James in the mix, this group is even more stronger and balanced. Expect Norries Wilson to keep his babies fresh throughout the game. These guys could go for 300 against the Hoosiers.
Hester had his breakout game against the Spartans, but will need to play just as well against the Hoosiers. Hester is an incredibly sound tackler but is often late in coverage. Hester can't afford to be late like the safeties were against Washington State. He will be playing with a good deal of confidence and should have another nice game. Don't be surprised if he gets another interception.
Rutgers @ Indiana | Memorial Stadium, Bloomington, IN | 3:30pm | BTN