The Rutgers football team gets a much needed bye week after playing eight games in a row since September 3rd. Along with Iowa, they are the last two Big Ten teams to have a bye week this season. After a gut wrenching, last minute loss to Minnesota, it is great timing for Rutgers to heal and restore their confidence for the stretch run of the season.
The month of November includes four East divisional opponents to conclude the 2016 season. The first game back is November 5th against the only conference opponent Rutgers has beaten twice, Indiana. The kickoff time and TV announcement was made earlier this afternoon.
Perhaps the Hoosiers are exactly the opponent Rutgers needs to get back on track and end their current five game losing streak. Indiana has a 3-4 record and is 1-3 in Big Ten play. They opened conference play with what was at the time, a big upset over Michigan State. How the mighty have fallen, as the Spartans are the only other winless team in Big Ten play, other than Rutgers.
Indiana followed that win and a 3-1 start by losing three straight games to Ohio State, Nebraska and Northwestern. They were competitive against the Buckeyes, trailing 24-17 in the third quarter on the road, before losing by three touchdowns. The Hoosiers crept within 24-22 of Nebraska at home, but couldn’t stop a game killing drive that resulted in a late field goal by the Cornhuskers, losing by 5 points. However, the wheels came off this weekend, stumbling out of the gate and trailing Northwestern 24-3 at the half on the road. Credit Indiana for not giving up, as they outscored the Wildcats 11-0 in the second half, but it didn’t change the outcome and the issue was never in doubt.
Rutgers is 4-17 in Big Ten play since the start of the 2014 season, but are 2-0 against Indiana. Perhaps they are a team that regardless of how the season is going, Rutgers will seem to always have their number. This was something that happened against old Big East rival South Florida, who Rutgers beat them seven times in eight seasons between 2006-2013. That run included the 2007 upset at home over the Bulls, who were ranked #2 in the country and still stands as the highest ranked opponent Rutgers has ever beaten.
The team needs to get healthy, including starting quarterback Gio Rescigno, who suffered a strained hamstring against Minnesota, and lead running back Robert Martin, who missed last game entirely due to an injury suffered against Illinois the week before. Having both of them close to 100% will more than anything else, give Rutgers a good chance to beat Indiana. On the defensive side, it seems everyone is banged up in some way, shape, or form. Enjoy the rest fellas, because there is a winnable game at home to start off the stretch run of November.
A road trip to Michigan State, a primetime game for senior night against Penn State, and a road game at Maryland concludes the regular season. The Terps battle Indiana this week, which will be an interesting game to watch from a Rutgers perspective. For now, let’s hope Rutgers gets healthy and continues to improve in practice. The young players who have gotten opportunities to shine the past few games have time to continue developing this next week and a half. Finishing the season on a high note with a couple of conference wins would show real progress has occurred with this program, despite the difficult fall it has been so far. It starts with Indiana.