The Rutgers football team will host Indiana for its annual homecoming game. In two primetime games this season, the Scarlet Knights (3-3, 0-3) have disappointed, losing both times. Hopefully, head coach Greg Schiano can give something for fans to cheer for as the program looks for its first win against a Big Ten opponent in 2022.
To preview the Hoosier (3-4, 1-3) football team, The Daily Targum interviewed Evan Gerike, who covers football for The Hoosier Network.
Indiana and Rutgers have had parallel seasons to this point. Both had three wins to start and have lost every game since then. The Hoosiers have a leg up because they have won against a Big Ten opponent in their season opener against Illinois, a team that now ranks 18th in the nation. So what is the reason for the drop-off?
“(Indiana is) facing a lot more difficult opponents now, starting with that Cincinnati game where they played in Cincinnati and going on to the Big Ten,” Gerike said. “The Big Ten East schedule has always been tricky for this team … They just haven’t been able to put it all together for a full four quarters. It just seems like they have struggled with maintaining their momentum late in the second half or building momentum early in the first half.”
Before the bye week, Schiano changed his staff with the firing of offensive coordinator Sean Gleeson. Nunzio Campanile will replace him. Indiana head coach Tom Allen decided to shake up his staff as well, letting go of both the offensive line coach and the run game coordinator. Gerike shed some light on Allen’s decision.
“(Allen) talked about it (with) a sense of accountability,” Gerike said. “It’s an industry based on results and performance, and you weren’t getting performance or results out of the offensive line group. The move happened a day after allowing seven sacks to Michigan, and yeah, Michigan is a really good defense and a really good front seven, but you can’t afford to give up seven sacks.”
For a Knights defense tied for 89th in FBS play with 11 sacks on the season, there may be some opportunities to build momentum if the unit can put the Hoosiers offense in long-distance situations.
A team needs a quality quarterback to get out of a third and long. Indiana picked Connor Bazelak from the transfer portal, and he has started every game for them this season.
He had success at Missouri but has struggled in his new home, completing just 54.6 percent of his passes, which is a career low. The struggles, Gerike said, can be attributed to Bazelak and the thin wide receiver room.
“It’s a little bit of both,” Gerike said. “The wide receiver room isn’t the greatest. Cam Camper has been kind of his go-to receiver, he’s a JUCO transfer that has had a really good year…and then you’ve got someone like Donaven McCulley. He was the starting quarterback last year and is now in the wide receiver room. So you have a wide variety of guys who don’t have a ton of experience and are still learning the position, which hasn’t really helped (Bazelak).”
Rutgers has been guided by the defense this season. For all of the positives, the one area of concern is when opponents get in the red zone. The Knights sit tied for last in red zone defense percentage, allowing teams to score all 12 times they got inside the 20. The Hoosiers have a .786 red zone percentage due to their fast-paced offense.
“We did our podcast for this week as well and did predictions at the end of that,” Gerike said. “I’m going to go with the same thing I said on there: Rutgers 23, Indiana 21.”
The game will kick off at noon on Saturday with broadcasts on Big Ten Network and 88.7 WRSU-FM.
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