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INDIANA at RUTGER: Game preview, odds, how-to-watch, and more

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It’s this team again, huh?

NCAA Football: Rutgers at Indiana Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Game Info / How to Watch

Who? Indiana Hoosiers (3-1 [0-1], #45 S&P+) vs. Rutger (1-3 [0-1], #118 S&P+)

When? Saturday, 9/29 12:00 PM, Piscataway, NJ

Channel? BTN

Vegas? Indiana -17

S&P+ Projection? Indiana -22.3


Congrats. We all just dove head first once again and committed suicide. The letdown feels a bit different this time around (as cliche as it sounds) because Indiana and Michigan State weren’t teams separated by all that much but one side played great and the other played their worst game of the year.

It wasn’t the fact that Indiana lost last week, it was the WAY they lost. The offensive line looked like they reverted to 2017. Peyton Ramsey was under duress all night, the running game looked awful and it derailed the whole offense. And Ramsey regressed to something worse than his 2017 version, missing tons of open targets and not even playing well as a game manager.

Impressively, Indiana actually created six scoring opportunities to Michigan State’s four. And lost by double digits. Hoosier football! Catch the fever!

The defense had its moments but didn’t look great either. While they got to the quarterback, particularly Marcelino Ball, they didn’t do much else well. The Michigan State offense had a 90th percentile performance. It’s hard to blame the defense too much, though, as they only dropped two spots in S&P after the game. It wasn’t a great performance but they were never going to make up for the offense.

The good news is that the Spartans moved to No. 1 in rushing defense S&P. The Hoosiers likely won’t play a front seven better than the one they faced last week with Michigan being the only other in their realm.

And despite how disappointing Saturday was, S&P gives Indiana an 84 percent chance at going bowling. The most likely record for Indiana this season, according to S&P, is 7-5 and an 8-4 season is still the third-most likely behind a 6-6 season. Indiana is in a great place, even if it doesn’t feel like it.

To the numbers

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 (#84 offense) 0.94 (123rd) 46.8% (33rd) 31.1 (45th) 3.96 (102nd) 3 (33rd)
RUTGER (#83 defense) 1.40 (119th) 42.5% (90th) 31.3 (102nd) 4.82 (92nd) -6 (125th)
- - - - - -
RUTGER (#125 offense) 0.97 (115th) 27.9% (130th) 26.0 (122nd) 3.40 (125th) -6 (125th)
INDIANA (#19 defense) 1.06 (37th) 36.7% (38th) 26.2 (26th) 5.00 (102nd) 3 (33rd)

The thing about Ramsey - and yes, I know I argued in his favor in last week’s preview - is that you’re never going to upset a top team with him at quarterback. Michigan State knew Ramsey couldn’t throw the ball downfield and loaded the box and never paid for it.

Against bad teams, Ramsey will get you by. Indiana’s offensive line, despite last week, is still good enough to create holes for Stevie Scott and protect Ramsey against the bad teams. But the ceiling is very limited. Ramsey can’t complete downfield passes, a problem that’s been apparent for more than a year now. The offense is never going to be explosive with him running it and will rely on him being efficient and not turning the ball over.

If Indiana’s aspirations are to simply make a bowl game at 6-6 or 7-5 this year, Ramsey is the guy. If they want to aim bigger, it should be time to turn to Mike Penix. For all the same reasons the team can succeed with Ramsey, it can endure the freshman mistakes from Penix. With him, the floor might be a bit lower (though I could be convinced otherwise) but the ceiling is higher.

I would expect a healthy dose of Penix this week both to see if he could be the long term option and because this should turn into a blowout rather quickly.

The Opponent

There’s not much to say about Rutger this season mainly because they’re dreadful. The Illinois game next week aside, S&P does not give Rutger more than a 16 percent chance to win a game this season. The Illinois game will be their best shot and even then, they have a 40 percent chance of winning.

Rutger is 123rd in rushing offense and 128th in passing offense. The relatively good areas of the team as a whole are the offensive line - 75th in opportunity rate, 53rd in stuff rate, 37th in sack rate - and the special teams. The latter is largely based off kicker Justin Davidovicz going 8/8 on PATs and 3/3 on FGs this year and punter Adam Korsak averaging 41.9 yards per punt on over seven punts a game.

The quarterback situation is a bit of a mess with freshman Artur Sitkowski and redshirt senior Giovanni Rescigno splitting time. Sitkowski won the job coming into the season, Rescigno replaced him against Ohio State and it’s been a battle since. Neither have been good this season and while Rescigno has been marginally more efficient in less snaps, logic would suggest to give Sitkowski the reigns and get the growing pains out of the way in a lost season.

Raheem Blackshear is the only weapon of note for Rutger. He leads the team in rushes (55), rushing yards (264), targets (29), receptions (15) and is tied for the team lead in touchdowns (3).

Rutger is better defensively than they are offensively but, again, its all relative. They are above average in rushing defense S&P but give up an opportunity rate of 56.3 percent. The passing offense is bad, allowing teams to both complete passes at a high rate (61.8 percent) and connect on big passing plays (105th in explosiveness).

Other than that, you’re going to be picking nits to find areas that Rutger is good at defensively.

Things to Watch

  • Offensive line - No unit was more exposed last week than the offensive line. They get a chance to face another weak front seven. Hopefully, they’re a more determined group and come out and make a statement.
  • Penix playing time - Regardless of what the coaching staff does for the rest of the season under center, there’s no reason not to play Penix substantial time this week. Redshirting him and risking the chance of having everything completely unravel if Ramsey gets hurt is not worth it for the long term. If everything goes well, Penix should get to play nearly the entire second half.
  • Restoring order - The thing that separated this team from many of its predecessors through the opening three weeks was that it took care of business against weaker teams. Rutger is as weak a team as they’ll play the rest of the way. Taking care of business and keeping on track for a big season would go a long way in reassuring fans.

Prediction

Indiana should win this one big. But Indiana should do lots of things it doesn’t. Indiana 69, Rutger 2.