Time:3:30 p.m., High Point Solutions Stadium, Piscataway, N.J.
TV/Radio: Big Ten Network, 1450 AM WCTC, 710 AM WOR
Series: First Meeting
Last meeting: First Meeting
Coaches: Rutgers – Kyle Flood (3rd season, 20-15); Indiana – Kevin Wilson (4th season, 13-32)
- Razor’s Edge -- Rutgers has a lot on the line Saturday, including the best opportunity remaining for bowl eligibility. It has not been a pretty month for the Scarlet Knights after three straight blowout losses. What takes place tomorrow on the gridiron defines the Rutgers season. Can Rutgers stop the bleeding and get bowl eligible? Does Rutgers continue its downward spiral. A win keeps Rutgers out of last place in the Big Ten East, and well ahead of national 2014 expectations. A loss drops Flood’s record to 4-9 in games played in November or later.
- One Last Time -- It is a love-hate relationship for many Rutgers fans and quarterback Gary Nova. Saturday will be the final time they see him play at High Point Solutions Stadium, and a win sends him out on top. Nova led Rutgers to the Russell Athletic Bowl as a sophomore, but sat on the bench as Chas Dodd did so against USF the following year. Nova’s 65 touchdown passes in 42 games are already a school record. With 49 career interceptions, Nova may break Ryan Hart’s record of 52.
- Hall of Fame -- Long-time Rutgers fans get a special stroll down memory lane with the 2014 Hall of Fame inductions. Rutgers inducts New York Giants Super Bowl champion center Shaun O’Hara into its Hall of Fame as well as the 1961 undefeated team. The 1961 team went 9-0 at Rutgers as the No. 15 team in the country, and includes all-time great Alex Kroll, who played center at an All-American level.
Rutgers linebackers need to play better against the top running backs on the schedule. Coleman represents a shot at redemption after poor outings against Ameer Abdullah and Melvin Gordon. Snyder and Longa got time in the bye week for recovery, and need to show improvement in their new roles against the run. Coleman is a statistical monster at tailback. Keep him in check and Indiana’s offense is in trouble.
They Make the Quarterback Beat Them -- Rutgers is an improved secondary, and Indiana has an inexperienced quarterback coming off losses in every start. Coleman will get his yards on the ground, but if that’s all Indiana does to move the ball – Rutgers is in good shape. Part of what made Wisconsin and Nebraska so challenging is the threat of pass (and hulking offensive lines). Indiana has neither.
No One Helps Carroo -- Leonte Carroo cannot do it all, and Rutgers needs other players to step up. For Indiana to pull off a victory, put a safety over top against Carroo and make the other guys beat you. Rutgers has four running backs and plenty of options at receiver. Those are the guys that need big games against Indiana. If the Hoosiers have enough to shut down other Rutgers skill players in single coverage, then Carroo and Nova face a tremendous challenge yet again.
QB Gary Nova – It’s now or never. The best way for Nova to go out on top as a Scarlet Knight is with a memorable senior day for the right reasons. Rutgers has a healthier Nova following his Nebraska knee injury and faces the most vulnerable defense on its Big Ten schedule. Mike Teel and Chas Dodd won big on their senior days, and Nova now has the same opportunity against the Hoosiers.
Something to Prove
Punters Tim Gleeson and Joe Roth – Field position is a must, and neither got the job done last week. Someone needs to step up in the punting game for Rutgers, and the sooner the better. The duo averages just 38.6 yards per punt with one in every four landing inside the 20-yard line. Short field position for the struggling Hoosiers offense is not something Rutgers can afford.
Looking to Build
DT Darius Hamilton – Hamilton showed tenacity and disruption against Wisconsin. Melvin Gordon stayed in check for a few plays, and that is thanks to what Hamilton did as an interior lineman. The Rutgers defense faces an equally dangerous running back in Coleman. It falls on Hamilton and company to right the ship after 135 points allowed during a three-game losing streak.
Freshman to Watch
RB Josh Hicks – The Palmetto (Fla.) freshman will be a part of the rotation after returning to offense in the bye week. Flood projected a four-running back look for Indiana week with the need to find playmakers. Rutgers averages just 122 rushing yards per game since losing impact tailback Paul James. The Scarlet Knights are also 2-3 during that stretch.