Here is something that most college football fans would not have contemplated as the Big Ten season began: After this game between the Indiana Hoosiers and Rutgers Scarlet Knights, one of these teams will be among the leaders of the Big East Division.
Depending upon the results of the Ohio State-Penn State game and the Michigan-Michigan State game, it is entirely possible that the winner of this game will be in sole possession of first place in the division.
Indiana is coming off its biggest win in three decades, fresh off the 36-35 overtime home win over Penn State. To say that Indiana is relishing this victory would be a tremendous understatement.
Rutgers also has cause to celebrate, as the Scarlet Knights snapped their lengthy conference losing streak. Rutgers never trailed in its 38-27 win over Michigan State, capitalized upon seven Michigan State turnovers, and had a rousing win in Greg Schiano's return as the head coach of the Scarlet Knights.
No. 17 Indiana at Rutgers
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 31 at 3:30 p.m. ET
TV: Big Ten Network
Spread: Indiana -11.5
When Indiana Has the Ball
The Indiana offense was largely dependent upon the success of quarterback Michael Penix Jr. Penix completed 19-of-36 passes for 170 yards with a touchdown and interception in the season opener. Indiana mixed the running game in with limited success, as Stevie Scott III was only able to rush for 57 yards on 20 carries, a 2.9 yards per carry average.
Look for Indiana to attack Rutgers through the air, as the Scarlet Knights gave up 319 yards to Michigan State. Pass defense was a relative strength for Rutgers last season, as they gave up 232.5 passing yards per game (76th in the FBS), but there are plenty of questions on that side of the ball outside of linebacker.
When Rutgers Has the Ball
Rutgers was actually outgained in just about all offensive categories, except time of possession, where they held the ball for 31:03 to Michigan State's 28:57. Rutgers employed a committee approach to running the ball, with Isaih Pacheco, Noah Vedral, and Aaron Young combining to carry the ball 37 times for 108 yards. While not overly impressive, it was effective against Michigan State, and Rutgers may try to do the same against Indiana.
The Hoosiers gave up 250 yards on the ground last week, but a large chunk of those yards were from Penn State's Sean Clifford, who gained 119 yards himself on quarterback runs. They should also be able to focus more on stopping the run since Clifford was a far bigger threat than Vedral will be after the Nebraska transfer only had 5.8 yards per attempt in the season-opener.
Rutgers has every reason to believe that better days are ahead. Schiano turned the program around before, and the convincing win in the season-opener will only help as he rebuilds the program. The challenge is that Rutgers' win came against a rebuilding Michigan State team, while Indiana has made strides to become one of the better teams within the Big Ten East Division. Indiana will earn its second straight win while continuing to build upon a strong start to the 2020 season.
Prediction: Indiana 28, Rutgers 7
Podcast: Week 9 Preview and Predictions
(Michael Penix Jr. photo courtesy of iuhoosiers.com)