"Wake me up when September ends..." These sentiments from a popular song by Green Day could be shared by members of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. Rutgers began September on a positive note, defeating Texas State 35-7. Ever since that positive moment, Rutgers has been in a tailspin, losing its last three games at Ohio State (52-3), at Kansas (55-14), and to Buffalo (42-13). While Rutgers was expected to lose to Ohio State, it would be fair to state that most people expected Rutgers to be able to defeat Kansas and Buffalo, or at least be far more competitive than they were in those losses.
Indiana has gotten off to a strong start in 2018. Coming into this Big Ten game at Rutgers, the Hoosiers are 3-1, coming off a 35-21 loss at Michigan State. The Hoosiers rallied in the game against the Spartans, closing the gap to 28-21 before MSU pulled away for the win in East Lansing on Sept. 22. A victory over Rutgers would give Indiana its fourth win of the season, helping the Hoosiers in their quest to gain bowl eligibility this season.
Indiana at Rutgers
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 29 at 12 p.m. ET
TV: The Big Ten Network
Spread: Indiana -17
Three Things To Watch
1. Indiana's defense vs. Rutgers' Art Sitkowski
Sitkowski has had a baptism by fire as a true freshman starting quarterback, throwing seven interceptions in his shared time at the QB position with Giovanni Rescigno. Indiana head coach Tom Allen made his name as a defensive coordinator, so the Hoosiers may try to confuse Sitkowski or Rescigno with pre-snap looks and coverages that could bait the quarterbacks into turning the ball over.
2. Indiana's running game vs. Rutgers' rush defense
The Hoosiers struggled running the ball against Michigan State, gaining only 29 yards on 32 carries, a 0.9 yards-per-carry average. While sacks are accounted for in that yardage total (Indiana gave up five sacks to Michigan State), those totals have to be improved upon for Indiana to win this game. Rutgers' Chris Ash, like Indiana's Tom Allen, is a defensive-minded coach, and he may try to replicate what worked so well for the Spartans last week.
3. Rutgers' body language
Losing the way Rutgers has over the past month has fans from across The B1G and throughout college football wondering if the Scarlet Knights have already packed it in. Playing at home, against a division rival, should present an opportunity to see what kind of focus Rutgers has as the season progresses into October and November.
While Rutgers is better than its 1-3 record, the demoralizing manner in which the Knights have been dominated over the last three weeks may have taken a toll. Indiana is coming in knowing that it played Michigan State tough, and even though they lost, the Hoosiers have more of a confident demeanor and belief in themselves and in their coaching staff.