Rutgers is coming off its bye week and preparing to take on Indiana at SHI Stadium.
Like two weeks ago against Nebraska, there is a lot on the line for Rutgers in this contest. So how does Indiana feel about the matchup? We spoke with Managing Editor of The Crimson Quarry Luke Norton for some addition insight.
OTB: Indiana has allowed over 30 points per game. Rutgers’ offense has been an issue. If the Scarlet Knights were to find ways to score, what is the way to do it against Indiana?
TCQ: It’s simple really, find favorable matchups in the secondary and do not fear the downfield pass.
Indiana has been able to stop the run this year, including against Michigan until the defense was worn out from being on the field all the time. That’s another factor, if Rutgers can keep Indiana’s offense from sustained drives the defense will be too fatigued to do much to stop the Scarlet Knights. This has happened in all three of Indiana’s conference losses this season and from the looks of it Rutgers is capable of capitalizing.
Indiana’s secondary was thought to be a strength going into this season, but injuries and poor matchups have seen that unit burned time and again. If Rutgers can get a downfield passing game going, that’s it.
(Also quarterback scrambles, Indiana has had a lot of trouble with those and Rutgers can very much do that).
OTB: How has the transition to Connor Bazelak been this season? What have you seen from his play under center?
TCQ: Bazelak doesn’t have quite the level of play that Indiana got from pre-2021 Michael Penix Jr., but Indiana would be lost without him.
He’ll have his moments, he threw interceptions on the first plays of each half against Maryland and there’s 1-3 plays every game where he flirts with disaster. He’s mostly been good about throwing the ball away when pressure comes (which is very often), but he’s taken some dreadful sacks.
At the same time, Indiana is probably still searching for its first or second win if it doesn’t have him. He can find receivers downfield if he’s given the time.
OTB: Indiana has been banged up a bit. Cam Jones has been dealing with an injury. How can he be replaced, if at all? What is the significance if he is unable to go?
TCQ: Cam Jones is both Indiana’s best player and its leader. He’ll be on the sidelines for the latter role, but his play on the field is incredibly difficult to replace. Guys like Bradley Jennings and Aaron Casey have performed admirably, but Jones is That Dude and Indiana is gonna miss him.
The Hoosiers’ linebackers will be okay without him, but that’s something I’m circling if I’m Greg Schiano.
OTB: What are some strengths and weaknesses for Indiana this season?
TCQ: Good question! Uh.
For strengths, new offensive coordinator Walt Bell has had his moments and has called a few good drives here and there with some well-designed passing plays. Indiana’s kicker, Chuck Campbell, is probably one of the best there is. That… might be it?
Weaknesses, well, the defense has not come as advertised and has been worked by just about every offense the Hoosiers have faced. Indiana cannot run the ball effectively or give Bazelak a good amount of time to find an open man.
Indiana cannot wrap up a passer and Rutgers’ quarterbacks have all shown the ability to scramble and get outta there.
The one light in the darkness might be freshman defender Dasan McCullough, a do-everything guy who was recently named a midseason freshman All-American by The Athletic. He has the moves to go after a passer and bring them down, get past an offensive line and be effective in coverage. He might be Indiana’s most dangerous defender at the moment, I’d keep an eye on him.
OTB: Rutgers has played strong defense and struggled to score. This obviously leads to low-scoring games. Will Indiana try to speed it up a bit and play in the 30s or can they adjust to a defensive battle?
TCQ: I can see Indiana trying to score quickly to get ahead of things while Allen bets on his defense to slow Rutgers down. I don’t see either being super successful and think this’ll end up being a low-scoring game if Indiana can get even a bit on offense.
OTB: If there is one matchup that will prove dominant, for either side, what can you see it being? Where will the victor gain an advantage?
TCQ: I said this above, but if Rutgers can pass the ball downfield that’s probably it for the game.
Indiana has shown time and again that it’ll let up big plays in the passing game and the Hoosiers have never been able to come back once they have.
OTB: Finally, what is the final score and who wins?
TCQ: I feel like this could be a winnable game for Indiana, the only one remaining on the Hoosiers schedule that I’m currently comfortable saying that about.
I think Bell should come in with a good plan to score early, but there’s nothing that Indiana does particularly well here seven games into the season whereas Rutgers has a reliable unit on the defensive side of the ball.
I wanna say 17-14 Indiana because of Campbell, but I would not be in any way surprised if Rutgers puts some plays together and wins by a touchdown (or more).