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Game Preview: Rutgers Scarlet Knights

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Rutgers has been stuck at five wins for what seems to be an eternity. Alternatively, one more loss and Indiana's bowl chances are officially done with.

Alex Goodlett

GAME INFO:

Who? Indiana Hoosiers (3-6 (0-5), #82 F/+) v. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (5-4 (1-4), #62 F/+)

Where / When? High Point Solutions Stadium, Piscataway, New Jersey; 3:30 PM

TV / Radio? Big Ten Network, IU Radio Network (Sirius 146, XM 201)

Tickets? don't do this to yourself

Vegas? Indiana -7.5, 55.5 o/u

_______________________________________________

Hey, Penn State's offense looked terrible against us!

They sure did! Now I know many of you will be quick to point out that Penn State's offense looked terrible because they are terrible and that is fair. However: entertain the notion that IU has made plenty of terrible offenses look excellent ALL YEAR LONG. In an unexpected development, the Nittany Lions came into Memorial Stadium and were thoroughly unable to score points at any better of a clip than they have been. In fact, their only trip to the endzone was a result of a complete breakdown in the second level of the defense, letting something called a Bill Belton get loose for a 92-yard score.

The timing couldn't have been worse, as it came on the heels of Indiana's first defensive touchdown in a B1G game since the Mesozoic Era, when an IU linebacker / velociraptor recovered a fumble by Purdue's Robert Marve and scored.

In a season full of things to be upset about, it was somewhat nice to see a bad offensive unit remain a bad offensive unit while opposing the Hoosiers. Christian Hackenberg was so terrible that James Franklin up and pilfered Indiana QB recruit Tommy Stevens on his way out of town.

Don't show me the numbers. I'm not in a good mood.

Well allow me to lighten things up. Earlier, some SB Nation B1G blogs got into a Twitter conversation after I made an open call for more writers, and this is what ensued:

twitterjokes

Ben's comment, in particular, had me rolling pretty darn good. And it reminded me of a tweet over the weekend about Michigan's flailing bowl hopes:

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>false statement “<a href="https://twitter.com/PaulMBanks">@PaulMBanks</a>: You can&#39;t use the phrase &quot;keeps their Quick Lane Bowl hopes alive&quot; since no one hopes of going to bowl. EVER.”</p>&mdash; The Crimson Quarry (@crimsonquarry) <a href="https://twitter.com/crimsonquarry/status/531229532376686592">November 8, 2014</a></blockquote>

<script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

The B1G is going to struggle to fill out their bowl bids, and apparently these "super fancy" teams with "enough wins to go to a bowl" are too good to go to Detroit the day after Christmas. Well you know who isn't?

bigtenbowlbasement

If you put Indiana, Illinois, and Purdue's wins all together then you have PLENTY TO GO TO A BOWL. Let's all just get in a bus, head to Detroit, and line up outside until they open and say "ONE BOWL INVITATION, PLEASE. WE WILL BE PLAYING AS A GROUP. HERE ARE THE NECESSARY WINS. COUPLE NEAT ONES IN THIS PILE, ROADIE OVER MIZZOU, ONE OF US EVEN BEAT MINNESOTA."

For the Hoosiers, it's either do that or win the last three games. Maybe IU dicks around and accidentally beats Rutgers on Saturday and Purdue rolls over for the last game of the season. Unfortunately, the suddenly CFP-alive Buckeyes have invited us to Columbus for the sandwich weekend and it's gonna be like a Red Wedding in The Shoe.

I feel like Rutgers might be bad. Are they bad?

The easiest answer to this question is "Probably not!" because their F/+ company includes Northwestern and Purdue while there's also halfway decent bowl-eligible teams like Iowa, East Carolina, and Washington hanging around the same area. For those who don't dig F/+, I can tell you that Rutgers' last three games have been against Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Ohio State and they've lost all three by a score of 135 - 41. Their only B1G win is a 26-24 victory over Michigan in what might have been the low point for a Wolverines' season that has been full of them.

Rutgers offense is ranked 41st by S&P (IU's defense is 89th), while their defense is ranked 75th (IU's offense is 65th).

THE FIVE FACTORS (Weighted)
Efficiency (25%) Explosion (35%) Field Position (15%) Drive-Finishing (15%) Turnovers (10%)
Indiana 41.2% (75th) 0.83 (71st) 38th 83rd 13.4% (44th)
Rutgers 42.4% (61st) 0.90 (36th) 114th 59th 17.9% (84th)


The numbers for Indiana's offense have, at long last, crash-landed after three starts by Zander Diamont. The fact he hasn't thrown a touchdown pass in three games and counting is fairly alarming and his YPA is now at 2.06 despite teams loading up the box to bottle up Tevin Coleman, with the Nittany Lions being the first team all year to finally do so.

For as bad as Penn State and Michigan have been overall, they each can boast about a decent defense, Rutgers cannot do that. The Scarlet knights are nearly as bad as the Hoosiers when it comes to defending, and they're equally inept at defending the run (76th) and the pass (77th). With Ohio State and a surprisingly capable Purdue secondary (33rd against the pass) left after this, this is going to be Zander's seemingly last good chance to put up yardage. The kid has been put in a horribly tough spot, it would be nice to see him have a good performance to show for all he's had to adjust to this year. This year is all a learning experience for him and not really suitable for fair evaluation, but I think everyone, from the coaches, to the fans, to Zander himself would feel a lot better if he could put something he can build on together before the season ends.

Rutgers has an excellent passing game (17th) that it pairs with a forgettable rushing component (52nd). Gary Nova averages 9.41 YPA so expect the Hoosiers beatable secondary to be tested early and often in Piscataway. Junior WR Leonte Carroo will be the likely recipient of Nova's throws, as he has as many catches this season (41) as the next three guys on the roster combined. He averages almost 20 yards per snag to go with six touchdowns on the year.

Only one Rutgers tailback with over 60 carries on the season is averaging better than 4.0 YPC and that's Paul James, who hasn't played since tearing his ACL against Navy. Desmon Peoples has been carrying the load since then.

Can we win this game?

The easiest answer to this question is "Probably not!" but hope springs eternal here at TCQ. Rutgers is nothing special, but this game being away from Memorial Stadium will just make things even more difficult for an offense desperately trying to find their way. Tevin Coleman will have to have another monster game to keep the Hoosiers on schedule and any sign of life from Zander Diamont could prove to be the difference-maker.

Unfortunately, Rutgers is going to score at a much more efficient rate than Penn State did and this is no longer a Hoosiers squad that can hold their own in a shootout. The defense will have to build on their outing against the Nittany Lions and try to hold Gary Nova in check to give the offense as many opportunities as possible.

It's not a likely scenario, but it's certainly a possible one. Maybe.