Well, that was fun.
Behind a smothering defense & an offense that seems to be rounding into old form once again, Indiana delivered Rutger a mechanical, methodical 41-0 red-assing over the course of a nearly five-hour long day on Saturday afternoon. Despite a 90-some minute lightning delay, there was never any doubt en route to Tom Allen’s Hoosiers picking up the program’s biggest blowout win over a Power 5 opponent since 1990.
It’s hard to name a singular star, but Morgan Ellison’s 149 yards on 15 carries stands out and fills this line of text -- sure. Here’s three important quick takeaways from today.
Indiana is a good team, and it did what good teams should do
Let’s start here: Rutger probably isn’t as bad as you think they might be, if you haven’t been paying attention to the #ASHERA in New Jersey. This year’s edition was, at least, less virulent and infectious than the Rutger outbreak of 2017. Bill Connelly’s S&P+ liked this squad as a top-40 defensive unit, they limited Saquon Barkley & a potent Penn State offense at least decently. Oh, and they’ve beaten Maryland, Illinois, and Purdue. Rutgers is not a bad team.
Indiana beat them into the turf anyway.
Today was evidence of something many believed coming into the season -- this Indiana team in talent & ability is probably closer to the Michigans & Michigan States of the division rather than the Marylands & Rutgers. Rutgers was overmatched, this game was never close. As should be the case for a team that would like to think of itself closer to that upper tier of the conference than the lower.
Mildly decent offense back?
When the advanced numbers come out on this one, I’m confident in saying this will be Indiana’s best offensive percentile performance of the season — and it won’t be particularly close.
Richard Lagow wasn’t perfect, but showed why he’s probably Indiana’s best bet at quarterback for next week’s showdown in the Oaken Bucket game with Purdue. His line of 17-of-28 for 236 with 2 touchdowns and a pick isn’t gaudy, but most of that was accumulated in the first half before Indiana became content to eat clock and run the ball at will down Rutgers’ throat. Having some sort of a credible downfield threat at least makes defenses think twice before stacking the box & opens up holes for a somewhat suspect run game. I’m not sure Peyton Ramsey, healthy or not, can do that — yet.
But Saturday’s real revelation came from the run game. Indiana dominated a decently stout Rutgers front-7, running for 267 total yards and salting the game away in the second half. It was easily the best performance of the year for a young offensive line, one that’ll need to be duplicated against a sneaky-decent Purdue defense under Nick Holt.
Win next week, go bowling for three years in a row.
The weird rhythm to Indiana’s schedule always made it a worry that if things got sideways during the gauntlet early, that a first-year coach in Tom Allen might not be able to rally the troops to win the final three games against Illinois, Rutgers, and Purdue to preserve bowl eligibility.
Well, one more to go. A win in West Lafayette next week would mean keeping two important streaks alive: 5 straight bucket wins & 3 straight bowl games for a program that was once the laughing stock of the Big Ten. Given how things will likely shake out with bowl scenarios, it might very likely have the Hoosiers headed for Nashville for New Year’s Eve.
(There’s also a semi-decent chance Indiana could get in a bowl game at 5-7 thanks to a decent APR score, but they’d likely be behind at least Minnesota, Georgia Tech, and possibly Middle Tennessee State, Maryland, and Vanderbilt. We’ll see.)