Rutgers travels to face Indiana and as of now, the Scarlet Knights are listed as 11 point underdogs in this matchup. Both teams have above average defenses and below average offenses. Something has to give on Saturday. Here is how our contributors see things shaking out on the field tomorrow.
Jayson Love: One team against whom Rutgers has had a bit of sustained success since joining the Big Ten for the start of the 2014 season is Indiana. Rutgers holds a 2-1 series edge, including an epic comeback at Memorial Stadium in 2015. One thing is certain, these teams are pretty even. To me, what it boils down to is Rutgers strengths; running the ball and forcing turnovers, are Indiana’s weaknesses. The Hoosiers have thrown 11 interception, and have trouble defending the run. Although they average less than 4 yards per carry against, and advanced stats have them ranked 21st against the run, Big Ten teams have put up large rushing totals. Ohio State went for close to 300 yards, but for a comparable opponent, Maryland rushed for 174 against the Hoosiers. Despite coming into the contest as 11-point underdogs, I think odds-makers are looking at the name on the fronts of the jerseys rather than results on the field. Rutgers wins a close one. Rutgers 31 Indiana 26
T.J. Jurkiewicz: Well boys and girls, this is it. If Rutgers wants to make a bowl game in 2017, they need to find a win as a double-digit road underdog in Indiana. The Hoosiers are fighting for a postseason game as well as they sit with 4 wins and if they can get past Rutgers, they will take on a reeling Purdue team to get that coveted 6th win. In my opinion, this game will more or less be decided in the first quarter because if Indiana is able to get out to an early lead, Rutgers doesn’t have the aerial attack necessary to come from behind and win a football game. The Scarlet Knights have to come out of the gates fast if they want to have a shot at winning this game. I think Rutgers struggles in the passing game ultimately spell doom in this one and Indiana pulls away late but I do like getting 11 here. The bet that I really love since I’m seeing this is going to be a very windy game is UNDER 49.5. I’m actually going to make this a rare MAX PLAY. Indiana 28 Rutgers 17
David Brown: After the PSU game, I think Rutgers gained some confidence when it comes to stopping a superstar caliber player. I know the outcome seems like a lopsided victory (35-6 is lopsided) but the Rutgers defense held Saquon Barkley to 35 yards. That’s encouraging to see Rutgers stepping up to the challenge. However, their pass defense has been very vulnerable and shaky lately. Indiana does have an NFL caliber wider receiver in Simmie Cobbs Jr. who will be a matchup challenge for the defensive backs. If Rutgers can get a decent pass rush, I think they will defeat Indiana. It comes down to who wants to win the game more. RU is very hungry after winning 3 out of 5 games. This game is so important in keeping hopes of bowl eligiblility alive. Rutgers 27 Indiana 20
Mike Voza: The Rutgers Scarlet Knights are on the road this week in Bloomington, Indiana to take on the Hoosiers in what amounts to a College Football Bowl Elimination Game. Both teams have 4 - 6 records and need a win this week to be in position to pick up their 6th win on the seasons final weekend in order to be bowl eligible. This is the type of game that makes college athletics so good. Neither team can win a championship of any kind this season but both sides will be sky high to compete and win this Saturday. Heck, if a possible trip to San Diego, San Francisco or Dallas doesn't excite you than what will.
The Knights running game will need to continue to be productive and keep them away from 3rd and long situations. The Scarlet run defense needs to continue to be stout in order to force the Hoosiers into 3rd and long situations. The fact that Saquon Hampton and Kiy Hester are back in the defensive backfield will help to stop an Indiana passing attack that ranks fifth in the Big Ten averaging 258 yards per game. Rutgers 27 Indiana 24
David Anderson: If San Francisco is so appealing, where have you guys all been to come visit me here in the Bay Area? Yes, Indiana opened as 11 point favorites. Looking through the stats, that does seem to line up. Indiana’s defense is pretty good and on the surface, so is their offense. They beat Virginia, who may be the most inconsistent of any team in the country, but has a record of 6-4.
The thing football reminds you time and time again is that some teams find a way to win. while others don’t. When you look deeper at the advanced stats, things start to jump out about Indiana as to why they are currently 4-6 just like Rutgers. Indiana has a tendency to get off offensive schedule and they don’t always score on their explosive plays. Since Indiana struggles in field position as well, this is a recipe for Rutgers to make the field long giving Indiana plenty of opportunities to have that minus yards play or drive-killing penalty. If the Hoosiers make a big play and Rutgers can keep them out of the red zone, the Knights have shown an ability to regroup and keep their opponents out. If Purdue was a bend but not break game, this is a bend but not break game on steroids.
Sure, if this game ends up being a blowout because one team put it together on offense, it will be Indiana likely on top. This game will probably not be a blowout though and in a close game, it has to be edge Rutgers. Rutgers 20 Indiana 19
Bob Cancro: “Heck, if a possible trip to San Diego, San Francisco or Dallas doesn't excite you than what will.” I see Mike Voza still hasn’t found those meds.
Okay, they are decent places to visit, but I don’t think that’s really what we’re playing for. This game allows us to bring out one of my all time my favorite song reference, the 1968 Zombies hit, “Time of the Season” where they sing, “What’s your name, Hoosier Daddy?”.
The folks in Indiana want to say that to us so-o-o-o badly: Who’s your daddy? Not you, Crimson. This will be a good game. Likely pretty close and competitive. The Ash/Kill team will do what it needs to win, and that means run the ball at least 300 times and play tough, bend-don’t-break defense.
I’m going to agree with T.J. on one point: first quarter could be very important. Keep it close, maybe create a few turnovers for scores, but don’t let it get away from you early. And now, as I take a deep breath, I write: Rutgers 24 Indiana 20
Cara Sanfilippo: I will not be able to watch this game as I have to try to say yes to the dress, and that is unfortunate as I agree with my colleagues here that it will be a good one. This game is very important for our credibility in the Big Ten, and our growth as a team. Indiana has a good passing offense, which we do not. That is where I feel that this game will make or break, as we have not proven that we can 1) truly defend against the pass 2). Create that momentum in our own passing game. However, if we can make one or both happen, or really get our running game going after last week, I think we can pull out a win. No matter what it will be a close exciting game, as we are not the punching bag we once were. I will side with my beloved Knights here, and believe they can eke out a win. Rutgers 24, Indiana 21
Jim Hoffman: I can’t make heads or tails of the Vegas line of 11 for this game. For the most part, these teams are pretty evenly matched. However, I think that the last couple of games Rutgers has shown such growth, particularly on defense, that I don’t get how they determined that Indiana is such a favorite.
But, since I don’t gamble, I don’t particularly care. I’ll brag a little- with the exception of Eastern Michigan, my preseason call on the season’s games have come to pass, wins and losses exactly as I predicted back then. I said that we would be 5-5 at this point in the season, and would win against Indiana to clinch a bowl. I still hold to that point, although due to the loss back in September, they are 4-6 instead. So, instead of winning this to gain a bowl berth, they will instead win their fifth game, and hope to play spoiler against Michigan State Next week. Rutgers 35 Indiana 28
Pete Winter: In my opinion, Indiana’s Big Ten record is a little deceiving. Currently, they sit at 1-6 in conference, but that includes an overtime loss to Michigan, a one possession loss to Michigan State, and a loss to Ohio State where IU led at the half.
Rutgers, on the other hand, is 3-4 in conference play and still has an outside chance to go bowling. With just one more win though, the Knights would clinch 5th place in the Big Ten East and cap off a successful bounce-back season.
This one is all about the running game for me. I think a balanced rushing attack from Rutgers will wear down a Hoosier defense that already struggles to stop the run. It may not be the prettiest thing to watch, but that’s just the way the Knights like it. Rutgers 27 Indiana 21
Aaron Breitman: Lots of optimism from our writers and while I hope Rutgers can win this game, I think Indiana is a bigger challenge than people realize. Statistically, they are slightly better than Rutgers on both offense and defense, with the only difference being they take a pass first approach, while the Scarlet Knights are primarily a run team. While weather will be a factor, I worry most about Indiana throwing quick slants in the middle of the defense, particularly making receiver Simmie Cobbs Jr. a focus in this game. How the linebackers defend the short passing game will be a major key. Indiana also defends the run much better than they get credit for, as they are ranked 21st in S&P+ in rush defense. Throw in the fact that if Rutgers did actually win this game, it would make them 4-0 in winnable Big Ten contests this season. Call me a pessimist, but I just think that’s asking a lot in a rebuilding year. I’d be thrilled if it happened and I would love to be wrong like I was with the Purdue pick. Lastly, account for that everything went right for Rutgers in the second half the last time they played at Indiana, I just think the law of averages rule out on the day. Indiana 21 Rutgers 14
Patrick Mella: Oh, this baby loves the slob, loves it, eats it up. Eats the slob. Born in the slob. His father was a mudda’. His mother was a mudda. What did I just say? One of you will get that Seinfeld reference. Anyways, the weather report is for a wet track and one that could favor Rutgers. Three out of four wins this season have been when Rutgers is able to run over 200 yards. Look for them to pound the ball with Edwards and Robert Martin. Martin has a great track history against Indiana and they’ll look to get him touches early. For Indiana, they rarely run the ball but might be forced to with the less than stellar weather conditions again working in Rutgers’ favor. If Indiana does throw the ball they’ll be throwing into a secondary that ranks has one of the best in the Big Ten. I know that road games are never easy and I wouldn’t be shocked if Rutgers was to lose but I think they run the ball effectively, get two interceptions on defense and grind this game out for the W. Rutgers 21, Indiana 17.
Namrita Singh: The Scarlet Knights are coming off of a 35-6 loss to Penn State; Indiana beat Illinois, 24-14, their first win in five games. Rutgers also beat Illinois on the road this year, 35-24, so I think the Knights hold an edge in this game. It’s definitely a winnable game, especially after the team held their own (in the first half) last week. And playing a meaningful game in November (playing for bowl eligibility) against Michigan State, as Aaron wrote about, should be a huge motivating factor for the players in this locker room. Gio’s mobility has helped the offense but the lack of a passing game is still a major disadvantage. The defense should be able to keep them in the game and prevent Indiana from getting off to a fast start. I’m backing the Scarlet Knights this week. Rutgers 31, Indiana 21
Our staff has overwhelming picked Rutgers to win against Indiana? Ridiculous homerism or legitimate reasons for optimism? Sound off in the comments on your thoughts regarding this matchup.