While not pretty, the Hoosiers did what was needed and beat up on a downtrodden Illinois team last weekend 24-14, and will now close the season with two very winnable matchups with Rutgers and Purdue. The Scarlet Knights have a far more difficult road ahead as they will finish up at home against Michigan State next Saturday.
If either team wants a shot at playing a 13th game this season, Saturday is a must-win scenario.
Rutgers at Indiana
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 18 at 12 p.m. ET
TV Channel: Big Ten Network
Spread: Indiana -11
Three Things to Watch
1. Going with the vet
Indiana head coach Tom Allen confirmed once again on Monday that Richard Lagow would be the starting quarterback once again this week as Peyton Ramsey continues to deal with a nagging injury. Lagow has been solid in the two games since returning under center as the starter, completing 62 percent of his passes for 646 yards and six touchdowns. But as has previously been the case with Lagow, turnovers are the key and the senior QB already has three in two games. Keeping his interceptions to a minimum will be critical for Lagow and the entire Indiana offense down the stretch.
Rutgers continues to get absolutely nothing from the passing game this season. Since taking over as the starting quarterback, Giovanni Rescigno has topped 100 passing yards just twice in five games. Excluding the academies, Georgia Tech and Georgia Southern — all teams that run the triple-option offense — Rutgers would rank dead last in terms of passing yards in the country, averaging just 119 yards per game through the air. Heck, even Navy, Georgia Tech and Air Force have more passing touchdowns this season with significantly less attempts. If the Scarlet Knights are to win this game, they will either have to get the ground game going with Gus Edwards or force turnovers on defense. We know for a fact the passing game will not help them secure a victory.
3. Continue the momentum
The Hoosiers rarely have had their full complement of running backs this year for a game due to a number of circumstances, resulting in the third-worst rushing attack in the Big Ten. That changed against Illinois with both Morgan Ellison and Cole Gest in uniform and the two combined for 131 yards on 30 carries (4.4 ypc) and a touchdown. Indiana still wound up throwing it 48 times in the game, but that was partly due to the Hoosiers dominating the time of possession. Indiana’s offense is at its best when it's balanced. Getting both Ellison and Gest more touches will be beneficial moving forward.
Expect very little if any fireworks in this one. While Indiana’s offense can be inept at times, Rutgers’ offense is inept ALL of the time. If the Hoosiers can avoid any costly turnovers that lead to points the other way, they should cruise to a comfortable victory and set up a crucial matchup next week with in-state rival Purdue.
Prediction: Indiana 26, Rutgers 17
— Written by Mike Bainbridge, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bainbridge is a graduate of Northern Illinois University. Follow him on Twitter @MBainbridgeCFF.