Every week at AllHoosiers.com we will have a scouting report on the team that Indiana will face that week in the form of a Q&A with a beat writer from that team.
For Saturday’s 10th game of the season against Rutgers, Sam Hellman, our Rutgers site publisher at Scout.com, has graciously accepted my invitation to talk about the Scarlet Knights by answering the following five questions.
Here is our 10th Scouting the Opponent Q&A with an opposing beat writer.
1. How has Rutgers' first season in the Big Ten gone to this point? What have been some of the general impressions or comments about Big Ten football? About what they expected, more or less?
HELLMAN: “The first Big Ten season for Rutgers has gone as expected. Rutgers made early noise with two sold-out night games against Penn State and Michigan. Both were competitive, and beating the Wolverines 26-24 was a marquee moment for the program no matter how down Michigan is this year. Also as expected, Rutgers has three straight losses during a "Welcome to the Big Ten" portion of the schedule. Playing at Ohio State, at Nebraska and home against Wisconsin on three straight weeks, the Scarlet Knights are beat up and have some questions to answer. The fan reception of the Big Ten is remarkably positive from a Rutgers perspective. The game day environment is improved at Rutgers, and the organization and leadership of the conference is a clear improvement. Three straight losses always make for discontent, but Rutgers is one win away from a bowl game in year one and very few (myself included) projected December football for the Scarlet Knights this year.’’
2. One of the first things that jumped out when I looked at Rutgers' statistics was the 191 yards allowed per game rushing. Is that really a case of Rutgers struggling against the run or was it a couple of games that really inflated those statistics? How do you think that defense will fare against a player like Tevin Coleman?
HELLMAN: “Rutgers is traditionally dominant against the run, which is why the last three games are so concerning. Yes, they came against some dynamic players (J.T. Barrett, Ezekiel Elliot, Ameer Abdullah and Melvin Gordon) but that's no excuse. Rutgers got off to a great start against the run, holding Penn State to 64 yards and Navy to a season-low 171. The fact is that Rutgers has a good defensive line, but one that was initially built for the Big East and American Athletic Conference. Rutgers has its top two linebackers playing banged up and bad angles by the safeties made for some big plays. I expect Rutgers to fare better against Tevin Coleman than in the last three games. Indiana has less of a passing attack and Rutgers had a bye week to get healthy. Will Rutgers do as well as Penn State did against Coleman? I doubt it.’’
3. Tell me about Gary Nova and how he has looked against Big Ten competition? How many of his 10 interceptions have come in Big Ten play and has that been a problem with forcing throws or just some bad luck on deflected balls and such?
HELLMAN: “Gary Nova is a risk taker, and he could be the school's all-time interception passer in addition to holding the career touchdown mark. Nova's problem comes when he tries to do too much. He forces throws, and does not always read the middle of the field well. Rutgers has had a poor running game since its starter tore his ACL in September, and the pressure came on Nova to step up even more. When Nova is on his game, he makes NFL caliber throws. Nova is by far the best option Rutgers has at quarterback, and he will be much healthier coming off a bye week. The meltdown game for Nova came against Penn State this year. He threw five interceptions that were a mix of poor decisions and bad luck, but it cost Rutgers a shot at its signature win.’’
4. I'm guessing that after playing the likes of Ohio State, Nebraska and Wisconsin the last three games that Rutgers has to be looking forward to playing an opponent like Indiana. How much do you think the bye week helped Rutgers after that three-game stretch? Did they have many lingering injuries that had a chance to heal over a two-week stretch?
HELLMAN: “The bye week was huge for Rutgers. That three-game stretch on the schedule was the toughest the Scarlet Knights have seen in history. It starts with Nova, who injured his knee and ankle against Nebraska. He was clearly banged up against Wisconsin, but will be closer to 100 percent against Indiana. Rutgers actually used its scout team during the bye for more prep for Indiana. This is a big game for Rutgers because it is the best chance at getting bowl eligible. Rutgers won't be favored again this year. Rutgers has had some lingering injuries at linebacker and defensive back, so look for a quicker defense off the bye week than you saw against Wisconsin.’’
5. We always ask the opposing writer for a game prediction. Myself, I have a hard time believing that Zander Diamont will be able to orchestrate a victory, especially on the road, against Rutgers. I think Tevin Coleman will keep IU in the game but I expect Rutgers to find a way to win. What is your thought and score prediction?
HELLMAN: “ I agree with your assessment. Writing this on Tuesday morning, I expect Rutgers to win in similar fashion to Penn State. These are two struggling teams in losing streaks, but I give Rutgers an edge because it is a home game. Rutgers has better balance offensively, but neither school is going to light up the scoreboard on Saturday. I'll go with 17-13 Rutgers. Tevin Coleman breaks 100 yards, but there is not enough in the passing game.’’
Again, thanks to Sam Hellman for sharing his expertise today with us at AllHoosiers.com.Five Keys to the Game
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