There are three weeks left in the season and the goal of making a bowl game is still there for the Scarlet Knights. This Saturday presents a realistic opportunity for a fifth win against an Indiana team that has as many questions as the Scarlet Knights.
Indiana has had a disappointing season to date after going bowling the past two years. Like Rutgers, Indiana has suffered injuries at key positions and has been susceptible to giving up large chunk plays. They have also had inopportune penalties and unforced errors.
The thousand-dollar question is who will be under center this Saturday for both teams. Donoven McCulley the 4-star recruit has led the Hoosiers the past two weeks with mixed results. McCulley is a dangerous runner, the type of quarterback who usually gives Rutgers fits. Michael Penix Jr., last year’s starter, and back-up Jack Tuttle are both practicing this week, leaving Rutgers the task of preparing for three quarterbacks, all with different skill sets.
Indiana head coach Tom Allen said that no matter who the starting quarterback is, the staff needs to devise a game plan for that player that gives the offense the best chance at success. “I think the bottom line is whoever the quarterback is everything is built on their strengths and the things that they’re able to do to give us a chance to win and push the ball across the goal line, create first downs, and stay on the field,” Allen said at his weekly presser. “That to me is the objective, to be able to possess the ball and score points. Whoever is in that position, it’s going to be based upon what they do best.”
“It’s something we discussed yesterday,” Allen said. “It’s all based on where those other two guys are at and what their health is like. He has played four games, so that is the limit, and if he plays at all Saturday, you know what that means. The whole objective is number one, whoever is in there is going to need to be able to be healthy, and we are not going to put them out there if they are not. But number two, it is what do we have to do to be able to help us be successful on Saturday. So that’s part of it and those are decisions we have had to make, and it is all based upon the health of those other two guys. We’re going to let these guys prepare this week and we’ll see what happens.”
Indiana’s offense is averaging 20.3 points per game They are averaging 189 yards passing and 121 yards rushing, neither of which are going to instill fear in the hearts of a defense. Their leading rusher Stephen Carr went out last week with an ankle sprain and his status for this Saturday is up in the air. Carr has rushed for 600 yards on 6.2 yards per carry. After Carr, the next highest rusher is Davion Ervin-Poindexter with 151 yards for the season.
In the passing game, tight end Peyton Hendershot and wideout Ty Fryfogle are tied with thirty-eight receptions apiece. If McCulley is the quarterback, he is the Hoosiers most dangerous weapon. If Penix Jr. is good to go, then many of the above stats become meaningless. So, pick your poison Rutgers fans.
Like Rutgers, Indiana’s offensive line has been a work-in-progress as players have shuffled in and out of the lineup. The wide receiver group may be the single biggest disappointment this season with production falling off precipitously since last season.
The Indiana defense has allowed a league worst 31.3 points per game with only nine takeaways. Indiana’s defense struggled last week against Michigan. One of the biggest positives for the entire Indiana team this season has been the play of Micah McFadden. McFadden continues to lead the defense through a very disappointing season. “It’s all league effort, his ability to sustain, his ability to in critical moments, puncture a gap, come off a block, make a play is pretty incredible,” defensive coordinator Charlton Warren said during his Monday press conference. A big concern for the defense this season is the lack of takeaways. Last season the Indiana defense was very opportunistic with takeaways and giving the offense good field position. The Hoosiers have just nine takeaways this season compared to 20 a year ago. “There is no less focus on that,” Warren said. “We’ve missed a lot of opportunities from the standpoint of dropped ones or didn’t get on the ball.” Warren attributed this to the change in the scheme.
News & Notes
- The Scarlet Knights are 5-3 on the road since 2020 when Greg Schiano returned as head coach.
- Rutgers and Indiana have met seven times since the Scarlet Knights joined the Big Ten in 2014. Since winning the first two meeting, the Hoosiers have won five in a row.
- Indiana opened as an eight-point favorite over Rutgers, according to Vegasinsider and the line has since moved slightly in Rutgers’ direction to 6.5 or seven points in favor of Indiana, depending on the book.
- The weather forecast calls for a mix of sun and clouds and temperatures in the 40s.