Indiana looks to build on its first conference win of the season when it hosts Rutgers in a Big Ten matchup on Saturday that will eliminate the loser from bowl contention. The Hoosiers defeated Illinois to finally get into the win column in league play, while the Scarlet Knights enter the game having lost two of three, including last week’s blowout loss at Penn State.
Rutgers has been much more competitive this season and is looking for its first four-win total in conference games since joining the Big Ten in 2014. Coach Chris Ash has a defense that is helping the team stay in games, which is needed because the offense has struggled to put points on the board. Indiana has an offense that has been inconsistent, but the return to the lineup of senior quarterback Richard Lagow (1,327 yards, 10 TDs) seems to have the Hoosiers playing better. The defense has also stepped up, led by linebacker Tegray Scales (80 tackles, 5.0 sacks) and safety Chase Dutra (79 tackles), holding the Illini to just 33 yards on the ground last week.
TV: Noon ET, Big Ten Network. LINE: Indiana -11
ABOUT RUTGERS (4-6, 3-4 Big Ten): Ash has heard all the questions about the Scarlet Knights’ woeful passing game, which is averaging just 92.1 yards in seven Big Ten contests, but he has answers. He points out that the team is focused on playing defense and using the ground attack to control the clock in games, so the passing game hasn’t received as much attention as other areas. Ash also points to the fact the team has had injuries and was relying on three true freshmen wide receivers and a graduate transfer quarterback (Kyle Bolin, who has been replaced by Giovanni Rescigno) who didn’t arrive to campus until the summer, giving them less time to get acclimated to the team.
ABOUT INDIANA (4-6, 1-6): Just as it was at the start of the season, Indiana seems to be Lagow’s team to lead, even after a midseason benching by coach Tom Allen. Lagow has been great since coming back into the lineup against Maryland, throwing for 646 yards and six touchdowns in a little more than nine quarters, including 289 and two scores in the win over Illinois. Lagow brings more experience and arm strength to the Hoosiers’ offense and could be the team’s best bet at rallying for a .500 record and bowl eligiblity over the next two weeks.
1. Indiana had a season-high eight sacks last week, the third-most in program history and the most since 2007.
2. Rescigno rushed for a career-high 57 yards against Penn State, one week after notching 54 against Maryland.
3. The Hoosiers’ wideout duo of Simmie Cobbs Jr. (63 receptions) and Luke Timian (59) rank No. 2 and 3 in the Big Ten in catches.
PREDICTION: Indiana 28, Rutgers 17