Aaron Brietman writes for On The Banks. We sat down and answered a few questions for each other on Saturdays game. We disagreed on a lot of things. You can read my thoughts here. His are as follows.
KR: You're coming off a heartbreaker on the road last week in East Lansing? Which team is more indicative of the team Indiana fans will see Saturday: that one or the one that lost to Washington State a week after they lost to 1-AA Portland State earlier in the season?
AB: There is a lot to cover but I would say there is now some division as to what is best for the football program moving forward. Kyle Flood had been generally liked but has always had his detractors. The events of this season have not only fueled the fire for those who want him out, but he has alienated and lost many supporters. Flood's reputation is now in the mud after emailgate. We wanted to believe Flood reached out to a professor in order to help a player do better in the class. Once the report came out, we realized the inappropriate contact with a professor was much more than an email. Secret meetings off campus and denials of knowingly breaking university policy resulted in fans seeing Flood in a new light. A much darker one.
The arrests of the players before the first game was bad, but this was much worse. The leader of our program had deceived everyone and jeopardized the academic integrity of the football team and university. I think the only reason he wasn't fired is the university felt it wasn't a clean cut fire with cause case. It came out a couple weeks ago that Rutgers hired a law firm that specializes in the NCAA violations. I would be surprised if Flood and the staff survive past December, although some worry he is here another season no matter what, due to financial concerns in replacing him and the staff. Some feel his punishment was appropriate, but if they have a losing season whatever support he has left may disappear.As for Carroo, his arrest took the start of the season from awful to disaster zone quickly. Losing your captain and best player under those circumstances was almost too much to take. Thankfully, he was cleared and picked up where he left off last week. The arrests and dismissals of the other players decimated our secondary. I mentioned the cornerback situation, but it affected depth with the safeties as well. The good news is the freshman that are playing are talented, and after their performance last week, appear to be learning quickly.
Rutgers has a strong running game with three backs rotating throughout the game. Josh Hicks and Robert Martin are both in the top 20 in rushing for the conference, each amassing over 300 yards and averaging 5.7 & 5.8 yards a carry respectively. Then we have Paul James, who was the starting back the previous two years before suffering season ending injuries. He had his best play of the season with a 72 yard rush last week that brought Rutgers back in the game. There is some frustration among the fanbase with the rotation, as James only had 2 carries the entire game with the way the drives worked out. Regardless, they have rushed for almost 1,000 yards between them in 5 games and have the ability to wear down the Indiana defense in the 2nd half, similar to last season's game.
As I said the secondary is extremely inexperienced and really got picked on against Washington State. Michigan State did throw well last week but credit should be given to the Spartans, as the secondary covered well. MSU just made great plays when they needed to. That is the next step for the secondary, as they are starting to read and cover better, they now need to start making plays in defending passes. I am confident it will come, but if Sudfeld is healthy and has time to throw, it could be another long day for the defense.
Rutgers is coming off their best game of the season, their head coach returns, and Indiana is banged up at key positions. This game is a must win to keep bowl hopes alive. As bad as this year has been so far, and as much as this program has become an easy target for the national media, beating Indiana and Maryland proves things are not as bad as pundits say they are. If this team can't build off of last week and ride the emotional lift of their coach returning, on top of playing a wounded team, then this team has more serious issues than I thought. The outcome of this game will go a long way in determining which direction the rest of the season goes. Indiana is hurting and even if Sudfeld plays, who knows how effective he will be. I think this team has moved on from the early season adversity and will play inspired ball in an effort to turn things around. Plus, Leonte Carroo will be the best player on the field and should have success against your secondary. If the coaches come out with an aggressive game plan and attack on both sides of the ball, we should win going away. I am predicting the same score as you Kyle, but instead with Rutgers winning 38-17