This week Rutgers heads to Bloomington, Indiana for the first time ever. It is homecoming for Indiana, who is coming off consecutive losses to Ohio State and Penn State, after starting the season 4-0. We were fortunate to speak with Kyle Robbins, the site manager for our sister site, Crimson Quarry. You may have heard of the ESPN College Gameday campaign to have the show at Indiana a couple of weeks ago, well that was started by Kyle. The Hoosiers are dealing with a lot of injuries to key players, so let's see what Kyle has to say about this week's match-up.
After the 4-0 start, injuries have reared their ugly head yet again for Indiana. What is the status of quarterbacks Nate Sudfeld and Zander Diamont, as well as running back Jordan Howard? Are any other players of note dealing with any injury issues?
Bear with me for a moment here and don't laugh. It's conceivable to think Indiana could be undefeated had Sudfeld and Howard not suffered ankle injuries in the Ohio State game. Howard went down early in that game -- but of course the Hoosiers still managed a 10-6 halftime lead without him. Sudfeld had initially rolled up his ankle in the Wake Forest game a week prior, but reinjured it early in the second half. It's hard for Indiana fans to think about what could've been the last two weeks in regards to injuries to undoubtedly the team's best two players. Having an opportunity to beat the top team in the country on 4th and Goal with your backup quarterback and running back will do that.
Diamont's improved a ton from last season, but he's still a much different type of player from Sudfeld. I don't know that he's strong enough to beat your vertically, but the Buckeyes struggled to contain his legs. Still, all that's irrelevant as Kevin Wilson has indicated he could be out for a "couple of weeks" with a shoulder injury. I would be absolutely shocked if Sudfeld and Howard do not go this week, but I said that last week too. Ankle injuries are weird, man. If they can't go, it'll be Danny Cameron and Devine Redding. Redding's a good back. Cameron is... a person with an arm, I guess? Not as in "HE HAS AN ARM, HE CAN SLING IT" but much more "He does have appendage attached to his upper body."
What was the expectation from the fanbase for this season and how do they match-up with where your team sits at the halfway mark?
Anytime you open 4-0 and have the #1 team in the country on the ropes in the 5th game, it's certainly a more-than-solid start to the season for Indiana football. Expectations really got crazy post-Ohio State game, but that's all very dependent on injuries as shown by the lackluster performance at Penn State. Had you asked me a week ago, I'd tell you there's more excitement around Indiana football than ever before with our #iufb4gameday movement and, more importantly, a good team. But, again, injuries. I think some wind came out of the sails after the loss in Happy Valley. This, not knocking Rutgers, is a game Indiana fans expect to win. If the Hoosiers can get that done with Sudfeld and Howard healthy, there should be some optimism heading to East Lansing last week.
What are your thoughts regarding head coach Kevin Wilson and in your opinion, does he need to make a bowl game to keep his job?
For our CFB preview over on the dot com, my answer before the season was "No." I still largely stand by that, given the hot start and the general feeling that the program is headed in the right direction. But. We've seen hot starts become the downfall of coaches in college football time and time again. If Indiana somehow manages to miss a bowl game now, it might draw the ire of some. But, again, if the Hoosiers stay healthy, I think that's unlikely. Really, it's not unrealistic to think that Indiana could be shopping for a coach in the offseason for another reason -- Wilson gets a better opportunity. Getting Indiana to, say, 8 wins would be a significant accomplishment. Would a program like a South Carolina come calling if they miss on bigger candidates? It's a question worth pondering, at least. Granted, I'd feel pretty comfortable saying Wilson will be back in Bloomington next season and on into the future.
How much confidence is there in the offense if both Sudfeld and Howard are not available due to injury?
Guuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh. If Diamont were playing, I'd still expect that he could do enough to win the game -- but I'd certainly be nervous. Cameron? Oh, boy. I wasn't able to watch the Penn State, but the reviews I heard from my other staffers weren't particularly glowing. Wilson says he's got more "similarities to Sudfeld than differences" so, I guess that's something. We'll see. Again, I'd be shocked to not see them on the field. They've been taking significantly more snaps in practice, and surely will be healthy. Right? Right? Please tell me I'm right. *starts shaking*
Please name a couple of players on both sides of the ball that Rutgers fans should pay attention to on Saturday?
Offensively, keep an eye on Mitchell Paige. He's a 5-7 little GRITCOIN that is certainly your mayo-white father's favorite walk-on slot receiver. Simmie Cobbs and Ricky Jones will command the attention on the outside, but Paige might be the most sure-handed of the bunch. Wouldn't be a shock to see him break a big play on Saturday. Defensively, linebacker Marcus Oliver has been a turnover-causing menace. The entire linebacking corps for Indiana's worth keeping an eye on really. Oliver, Tegray Scales, TJ Simmons. They've been tremendous and the strength of this defense so far in 2015.
It 's homecoming for Indiana, what should Rutgers fans expect in terms of atmosphere and excitement level for this game.
Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm. I don't know. I'm going to be honest with y'all -- and please don't take this personally. We don't want you here. You're not a Big Ten school. You're not. To Indiana folks, the Big Ten is a midwestern conference. It is, it always will be. And the fact that Rutgers is in it would be a fact most would like to forget. This is not changing now, on Saturday, or anytime soon. Indiana fans are used to a traditional homecoming opponent of Iowa, or Michigan State, or Illinois. They'll be plenty of people at the game. Will they come in the gates? I don't know. There's no history between Indiana and Rutgers. The people returning against the school have no memories from you know that Rutgers game we were at in '86. Like, I know the line of comments this will receive from Rutgers fans -- We beat you last year, we're better than you at football. Sure, fine, that may be the case. It's also ignorant of all the history and culture that Big Ten programs tend to share. Nebraska was embraced because it looks and feels like a Big Ten school. Most fans are already embracing a basketball rivalry with Maryland -- there's some shared past history with the 2002 title game and such. But Rutgers? Rutgers? The feeling from most Indiana fans is one of you can't sit with us. Listen, this is a shotgun marriage. We don't have to like it. Sure, that will probably change over time. But for now, it's uncomfortable for most Indiana fans that don't hail from the east coast.
What is your prediction for the game?
I've picked Indiana the last two weeks. I've been wrong. I want to pick Rutgers in an effort to keep that streak alive, but I can't ignore the advanced projections. If S&P says Indiana by 20+, I guess I'll go with it. If Sudfeld and Howard plays, I'll say Indiana wins comfortably. 38-17. If not, hooooooooooooooo boy let's not talk about it.
Thanks to Kyle for taking the time to answer my questions and best of luck to them this weekend. To see my answers to Kyle's questions, click here.