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Indiana Hoosiers vs Rutger Scarlet Knights: game preview, stats, odds, kick time, channel and more

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Let’s get this over with.

NCAA Football: Indiana at Rutgers Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Game Info / How to Watch

Who? Rutger Scarlet Knights (4-6 [3-4], #96 S&P+) at Indiana Hoosiers (4-6 [1-6], #65 S&P+)

When? Saturday, November 18 12:00 PM, Bloomington, Indiana

Channel? BTN

Vegas? INDIANA -11

S&P+ Projection? INDIANA 27 - Rutger 19

____________________________________

It’s finally here! The worst rivalry in the Big Ten! PLEASE DON’T EMAIL ME THREATS.

Indiana, despite all the hand-wringing, is in the exact same position they were in last year: beat Rutger, beat Purdue- go to a bowl game.

(Of course, they will probably go bowling if they just beat one of them. THANKS APR!)

That’s a much taller task than it was a year ago. Last year, the Scarlet Knights clocked in at 114th in S&P+ (they’re 96th now) and Purdue was 105th (now 43rd). S&P+ gives Indiana about a 1 in 4 shot at pulling it off and a 68% chance of winning this week.

There’s no question the Hoosiers have backslid a bit from last season, while Chris Ash has the Scarlet Knights moving more or less in the right direction. Indiana is still a double-digit favorite and playing at home, but the Hoosiers know all-to-well what Rutger is capable of in that situation.

FIVE FACTORS

- Explosiveness (86%) Efficiency (83%) Field Position (75%) Finishing Drives (72%) Turnover Margin (73%)
- Explosiveness (86%) Efficiency (83%) Field Position (75%) Finishing Drives (72%) Turnover Margin (73%)
INDIANA (#101 offense) 1.00 (123rd) 38.2% (112th) 29.1 (81st) 4.61 (54th) -8 (116th)
RUTGER (#42 defense) 1.12 (48th) 41.5% (69th, nice) 29.4 (75th) 4.68 (93rd) -1 (73rd)
- - - - - -
RUTGER (#121 offense) 0.97 (128th) 37.9% (115th) 30.6 (43rd) 4.45 (69th, nice) -1 (73rd)
INDIANA (#30 defense) 1.09 (38th) 37.4% (26th) 29.9 (84th) 4.92 (107th) -8 (116th)

Rutger is constructed in a similarly flawed way as Indiana, hilariously incapable offense paired with a very good defense, but the Scarlet Knights are measurably worse on both sides of the ball. Their offense has turned in exactly two performances where their percentile performance cleared 50% (against FCS Morgan State and Illinois, who may as well also be FCS.) They have turned in some truly dreadful performances: 15th percentile against EASTERN MICHIGAN, 17th percentile against BOB DIACO, 28th percentile at home against Purdue! WOOF.

PASSING

Kyle Bolin opened the season as the starting QB after transferring from Louisville (gee wonder why) and was an incontrovertible disaster (54.9% completion rate, 5.0 YPA, 3 TD, 6 INT, 2.2% sack rate). He’s been replaced by Giovanni Rescigno who has, somehow, been worse. He’s got a positive TD/INT ratio (2-1) but his completion rate (47.0%), his YPA (4.5), and his sack rate (8.8%) aren’t clearing the incredibly low bar Bolin has set.

Rutger’s passing offense makes Indiana’s look competent, and that’s the sickest burn I can come up with. They’re 124th in success rate (Indiana is 70th) and 119th in explosiveness (which is actually better than the Hoosiers’ popgun passing offense). Overall, they’re 117th compared to 42nd for Indiana. There have been precious few times this year that Indiana has taken the field with the better passing offense than their opponent, and they’ll need to exploit that advantage to be victorious.

The pass-catchers for the Scarlet Knights have combined for 117 catches on the year, or 5 less than Simmie Cobbs Jr. and Luke Timian have combined for. Rutger doesn’t want to throw the ball, they’re 22nd in standard down run rate and 48th in passing down run rate and a whopping 111th in pace. They want to grind you down and run clock, keep the game between the 20s and win by 3. When they do throw the ball, it’s probably to TE Jerome Washington, who has 25 catches, 256 yards and 1 score on the year, all of which lead the team. The 6’4” junior can create matchup issues, but his QB play has limited his impact. That’s why you gotta stay flexible, be prepared to catch off-target passes- use your ass if you have to.

Bottom line, Chris Ash and Jerry Kill are aware of their limitations in the passing game, and try to avoid it as much as possible.

RUSHING

If I told you the Scarlet Knights had a top-40 rushing offense, would you believe me? IT’S TRUE! It’s not the most beautiful (97th in explosiveness) nor efficient (77th in success rate) rushing offense you’ll see, but it makes up for that in volume. Gus Edwards, the transfer from Miami (miss u boo), leads the pack with 673 yards and six scores with a 4.4 YPC. He’s your prototypical power-back: 6’1”, 235, and runs VIOLENTLY. He’s not a huge threat in the open field (4.1 HY/O) but that doesn’t mean he’s fun to tackle.

Freshman Raheem Blackshear is his polar opposite, at 5’9”, 185 pounds he gets his yards by missing tackles, not breaking them. His 6.3 HY/O leads the backs and his 6.7 YPC is surpassed only by wide receiver Janarion Grant, who only has 7 carries and one of them went for 65 yards. ‘Twould behoove the Hoosiers to cut Blackshear down at the line because he’s tough to get your mitts on after that. Jerry Kill and co. have been hesitant to give Blackshear more touches, as he’s picked up most his stats against Morgan State and Illinois, but maybe they should reconsider.

Robert Martin is the true backup to Edwards, with 429 yards, 4.8 YPC, and 3 scores on the year. He terrorized Indiana the last time he was in Bloomington, turning 17 carries into 124 yards and three scores. Granted, that was before Tom Allen was around and just about every running back was terrorizing the Hoosiers.

DEFENSE

Give Chris Ash credit: much like Tom Allen, he’s taken a defense that was among the worst in the country two years ago and turned them into a respectable, borderline top-40 unit about as quickly as you can in this sport. They’re not really great at any one thing but they’re also not woefully inept at any one thing either, and that gets you a long way in this sport. They’re 62nd against the run and 52nd against the pass, they’re a little vulnerable to the big play through the air, but given Indiana’s disturbing lack of big plays through the air, that’s not likely to be an issue on Saturday.

Similar to the Hoosiers (oh god I’m saying this way too much) they have a crop of young ballhawks in the secondary. The diminutive Jawaun Harris caught 39 balls for the Scarlet Knights as a freshman receiver last season and has since been converted to safety, tied for second on the team with 2 picks and 3 PBUs. Fellow sophomores K.J. Gray and Damon Hayes have flashed playmaking ability as well, combining for 6.5 TFL/sacks, 3 picks, and 13 PBUs. It’s no small wonder how Rutger DBs are 22nd in the nation in Havoc Rate, and that’s fueled largely by their underclassmen.

They’re not particularly good at generating pressure on the QB (100th in defensive sack rate) but with Indiana’s well-documented struggles in protection, it won’t be surprising to see Peyton Ramsey Richard Lagow running for his life.

STUFF TO WATCH FOR

  • Lagow or Ramsey or does it matter? I tweeted this out a couple of days ago, but have you looked at the season stats for the two quarterbacks we’ve spent all year bickering about? LAGOW: 123/207 (59.4%), 1327 yards (5.6 YPA), 10 TDs, 6 INTs, 5.9% sack rate; RAMSEY: 134/205 (65.4%), 1252 yards (5.3 YPA), 10 TDs, 5 INTs, 6.0% sack rate. Obviously there are some stylistic differences (and Ramsey does have 320 yards and 2 scores on the ground, albeit with a 3.9 YPC) but there has been a lot of hullabaloo about two guys that are basically running the same bottom line through 200 pass attempts. Indiana is going to need better QB play in the future, and while Ramsey has plenty of his career left ahead of him, he didn’t really end up being the savior he appeared to be against Virginia.
  • Who will dictate the pace? Indiana is 9th in adjusted pace (why) while the Scarlet Knights and their damn-near refusal to throw the ball puts them at 111th. I’ve long-advocated that this version of Indiana would be better served slowing up on offense and wouldn’t mind a game with fewer possessions. Throwing three incompletions and punting back to the opponent puts the defense in a horrible spot, and with their current construction, Indiana has to win games with that unit. Let’s not make life on them any harder than it has to be.
  • This game could be borderline unwatchable. TWO GOOD DEFENSES. TWO INEPT OFFENSES. THIS SATURDAY AT NOON ON THE BIG TEN NETWORK. Ugh. You could set the o/u on this game at, like, 20.5 and I’d be tempted to take the under. It’s also going to take forever. Indiana can’t run the ball so they throw it 60 times per game, making every game a 4 12 hour ordeal. You shouldn’t expose yourself to Rutger for that long. It can’t be good for you.
  • BUT THAT DOESN’T MEAN IT ISN’T IMPORTANT. Both teams sit at 4-6 and (probably) need this game to stay on track for bowl eligibility. Indiana needs a bowl to avoid showing an overt backslide under new head coach Tom Allen and Rutger needs a bowl because, well, it has been a minute since there’s been anything positive about the Rutger football program. Fans were probably not anticipating playing for a bowl this year but HERE THEY ARE. And while they would have to get past Michigan State in their last game to make it happen, they don’t get that chance without a win on Saturday.

PREDICTION:

Rutger is getting better and Indiana is kind of spinning their wheels. I’m apprehensive as hell about this game and really anything dealing with Indiana football. At the same time, however, Rutger sucks and shouldn’t be in the Big Ten. HOOSIERS 69, Rutger 0