Tomorrow, Rutgers will play Indiana for the fourth time. The series currently is led by Rutgers two wins to one. The games have all been interesting ones, Rutgers coming from behind for a big win (2014), an amazing Rutgers comeback to squeak out a win (2015), Indiana coming from behind for a big win (2016).
At this point, Indiana is an 11 point favorite for this game. Is that realistic? I don’t think so, so I decided to look at their common opponents and see what, if anything, can be gleaned from those games this year. Now, before your head explodes, I already know that you can not extrapolate performance based upon common opponents, but I think there may be trends that can be examined.
The common opponents to date are Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan, Illinois, and Maryland. Their records against these teams? Well, Indiana and Rutgers both lost to Ohio State, Penn State, and Michigan. Both schools beat Illinois, and split on Maryland, with Indiana losing a close to the Terps, and Rutgers winning against Maryland the following week.
But, HOW did they win or lose? Let’s look at each of the games, OK?
Indiana had a great first half against Ohio State, going into the break with a 14-13 lead, and even led 21-20 well into the third quarter. However, the Hoosier players wore down as the game went on. As their offense began to fail to move the ball, their defense wore down from being on the field more, and Ohio State took control, scoring 29 unanswered points to finish the day.
Rutgers was routed by the Buckeyes in their worst outing to date in 2017. The Scarlet Knights were able to hold Ohio State to a single touchdown in the first quarter. Following that the Scarlet Knights were steamrolled as the Buckeyes ended with a 56-0 scoring spree on the Scarlet Knights.
Comparison- Indiana and Rutgers had similar defensive categories in this game, in terms of yards lost (over 500 for both schools) and points scored (49 v 56). Indiana was able to move the ball better against Ohio State, and was able to score 21 points, as opposed to Rutgers going scoreless against the team from Columbus. It should perhaps be noted that this game was Rutgers’ last with Kyle Bolin at the helm. Perhaps if Gio Rescigno was behind center more yards and points may have been accumulated.
Indiana was rolled by Penn State, with the Nittany Lions piling on 28 points before Indiana was able to score at all. However, the Hoosiers were able to get into the end zone twice in the second quarter. In that game, Penn State’s Trace McSorley threw for two touchdowns and Saquon Barkley ran for only 56 yards.
Rutgers was also rolled by Penn State, but Rutgers was the first team all season to keep Penn State from scoring in the first quarter, before PSU scored twice in the second quarter. In the game, Rutgers also scored twice, but both were field goals. PSU’s McSorley threw for two touchdowns, and Saquon Barkley was ran for only 35 yards.
Comparison: Statistically, there was little to differentiate how each school did when playing against Penn State. Indiana was able to get into the end zone twice, while Rutgers was limited to two field goals. Rutgers was able to keep Penn State scoreless for one quarter, and as a result, Penn State score 10 fewer points against Rutgers than against the Hoosiers.
Indiana had one of their best games of the season against the Wolverines, forcing an overtime before falling to them 27-20 in the overtime period. However, despite the gains made by their offense against the Wolverines, part of their success may be the failure of John O’Korn as the Wolverine quarterback to move the ball, throwing for only 58 yards. Michigan’s primary rushers gained over 250 yards in the game.
Rutgers held Michigan scoreless in the first quarter, and actually we tied 7-7 with less than three minutes left in the first half. As with Indiana, Michigan’s primary rushers also ran against Rutgers for over 250 yards. The replacement of Michigan’s John O’Korn with Brandon Peters led to a dramatic change in their offensive fortunes, however. Unlike O’Korn, Peters was able to effectively move the ball in the air against the Scarlet Knights, leading to a 35-14 Michigan victory.
Comparison: The replacement of John O’Korn’s by Brandon Peters made a tremendous difference in Rutgers’ ability to hold the Wolverines. Following that action, Michigan was able to move the ball effectively. While that may have had a difference against Indiana as well, we will never know. Indiana took the Wolverines to the brink, while Rutgers was out of the game shortly into the 4th quarter.
Indiana’s win over Illinois was their first conference win in 2017, just last week. It was obviously an important one for the Hoosiers, and gave them a much-needed boost in confidence going into their game against Rutgers tomorrow. However, this was a game that was in question until the final five minutes of the game. While Indiana took a 17-7 lead through the end of the third quarter, Illinois made is 17-14 and the teams battled closely until Indiana scored to close out the game late in the 4th quarter. It was a win, but not a pretty one.
Rutgers’ win over Illinois was also THEIR first win in 2017, and started them on a 3-1 stretch in weeks 7-10. Rutgers was dominant throughout, and took a 28-10 lead into the fourth quarter. While Illinois also scored in the fourth, it would not be enough, and the final score of 35-24 was not indicative of the dominance of the Scarlet Knights on both offense and defense.
Comparison: While both teams came away with a win over the hapless Illini, the difference in how it was done could not be more stark. Indiana squeaked out a win, and Rutgers took this game easily. There really was no comparison.
Indiana had their highest scoring effort of the season against Maryland, however their defense allowed more points than the offense could manage. This was a game that see-sawed between the two teams, with Indiana leading until just before the end of the second quarter. Following that, the lead changed hands three more times. Indiana was unable to get into the Maryland end zone in the 4th quarter, while Maryland did so twice against the Hoosiers. Maryland was able to slip away with the 45-42 victory.
Rutgers, though the underdog by Vegas predictions, was able to come back in the 4th quarter and score two touchdowns, coming away with a 31-24 win. While it was never a given, Rutgers looked strong in the game on both sides of the ball, and the defensive stand by Rutgers at the end was energizing to the home crowd, who were even noted by the announcers for their exuberance.
Comparison: This is fairly easy, as Rutgers won this game, and Indiana lost the game.
Ok, for those of you who are keeping score, in the five games, Indiana had the advantage in two, Rutgers had the advantage in two, and neither had an advantage in the fifth, which makes it a tie. However, since Rutgers’ score in the five games was 2-3, and Indiana’s was 1-4, the tie-breaker goes to the Scarlet Knights.
This was probably the least-scientific measure of two sports teams ever devised, but you can get a picture of how closely matched these teams are. Tomorrow’s game in Bloomington will be a close one, but this examination matched my earlier assessment that Rutgers will pull this off and gallop to their fifth win of the season.
However, I’d like to hear from you as well. Let me know your thoughts below:
Who will win the Rutgers-Indiana game?
This poll is closed
It’s a toss-up!