Rutgers became unraveled after getting blown out in Columbus against the Buckeyes and looked sloppy and unprepared as it tried to regain their footing. The road ahead is not going to get any easier for the Scarlet Knights and they are losing time to get it together.
The Hoosiers shut out Rutgers en route to a 41-0 home victory a season ago. Despite last year’s result, this game was winnable for the Scarlet Knights a month ago. The Rutgers team taking the field on Saturday is a very different team than what fans expected it to be.
Head coach Chris Ash has not committed to a quarterback after true freshman Artur Sitkowski hit a rough stretch since taking several big hits from Nick Bosa. In the two games that the Scarlet Knights have played since Ohio State, Sitkowski has failed to see playing time in the second half, getting pulled after poor performances in favor of Gio Rescigno before half time in each game.
One thing to note is that Ash could still redshirt Sitkowski this year and retain his first year of eligibility. While Ash did not indicate that he was choosing that path for the biggest recruit of his tenure, it should be something the staff should consider.
It is clear that Sitkowski has not lived up to the hype surrounding him thus far and if he needs the rest of this year to develop into a Big Ten quarterback without the stress of competition looming over his head, the Scarlet Knights should consider sitting him for the year.
While it is still very early in the Sitkowski era to know how he’s going to develop, they do not have time to wait on this decision as he has burned up his four free appearances. I personally do not think that’s the path Ash and company will take, but it is something to consider.
In relief, senior captain Rescigno has not been the savior fans want him to be. Rescigno is 24-for-48 passing this season with one interception and no touchdowns. He has only thrown for 263 yards throughout the equivalent of one and a half games.
Feels Like Adversity Strikes You At Times When You Are Up and Doing Good , BUT HOW ARE YOU GOING TO RESPOND . Will It Make Or Break You? In The End , It’s ALL UP TO YOU .💯— ⚫️ (@getbusy__bo) July 13, 2018
Part of that is the lack of efficiency and consistency at quarterback, but a large part of Rutgers’ offensive woes fall down on the wide receivers. Jerome Washington leads the team with 147 receiving yards on the season while the projected star of this group, Bo Melton, only has 100 yards in four games this season.
It is really hard to win ball games, especially in the Big Ten when the top two receivers to have less than 250 receiving yards. Look for Washington and Melton to get going if Rutgers has any chance to win down the stretch.
Looking ahead to Indiana, the Scarlet Knights will be tested. Indiana is averaging 29.2 points per game and holding opponents to 22.2 points per outing. If Rutgers can score 22.2 points on Saturday, that could probably be considered a win at this point in the season.
Indiana is tied for the lead in the Big Ten with nine takeaways, including four interceptions, through four games. This will factor heavily into the Hoosiers game plan, as Rutgers has struggled with keeping possession of the ball this season.
Jonathan Crawford will be one player to watch for if you’re the Rutgers offensive line. Crawford has 23 tackles on the season, including three for a loss. Indiana also has eight sacks on the season, but look for senior left guard Tariq Cole to slow the Hoosiers down. The Scarlet Knights have only given up five sack on the season, one less than Indiana’s average sacks allowed. If Rutgers can put pressure on Peyton Ramsey, it might be able to keep this one competitive.
The Scarlet Knights defense have a big test ahead of them if they want to slow Ramsey down. Ramsey has gone 88-for-122 with 751 yards and seven touchdowns in 2018. The defense is going to have to step up and limit the big plays down field to keep this game competitive.
The goal for the Scarlet Knights should just be to stay close in the game for as long as possible. This game has no larger implications for Rutgers; 2018 has already been lost. If the Scarlet Knights can simply keep this game within their reach at halftime, it could be considered a win.
Prediction: Indiana 35, Rutgers 10
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