Indiana at Rutgers Odds
|Indiana Odds||-10.5 [BET NOW]|
|Rutgers Odds||+10.5 [BET NOW]|
|Moneyline||-385/+295 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||53.5 [BET NOW]|
|Time||Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET|
|TV||Big Ten Network|
It’s been 2,583 days since Rutgers started conference play 1-0.
You would have to go all the way back to the Scarlet Knights’ AAC days and a 55-52 double-overtime victory over SMU to find the last time this program had real momentum. The State University of New Jersey celebrated that October night as a 4-1 team with actual BCS bowl aspirations. Since then, the Scarlet Knights are 24-58 overall. But after just one week here in 2020, it appears that Greg Schiano’s return has reinvigorated the Garden State’s only FBS program.
Indiana, while decidedly more successful as a program in recent years, hasn’t started 1-0 in Big Ten play since 2016. The Hoosiers’ 36-35 overtime thriller against Penn State last weekend in Bloomington was the school’s first win against a top-10 team since Ronald Reagan was in the Oval Office.
Needless to say, this game is loaded with letdown potential for both squads, but only one can wake up on Sunday morning in control of its Big Ten East destiny. And that team is Indiana.
As the Pat Riley quote goes, teams climb a ladder…
“From nobody to upstart. From contender to winner. From winner to champion. From champion to dynasty.”
Indiana is in that second tier, finding its way from being a “tough out” to being a consistent winner in the Big Ten. To do that, a team needs to win games even when it’s not playing its best football.
Case in point, Indiana knocked off Penn State last week without playing its brand of football on offense.
The Hoosiers have the potential to be a devastating offense, but last Saturday, IU was nearly out-gained 2-to-1, which allowed Penn State to achieve a 100% postgame win expectancy. By all measures, the Hoosiers should have lost, but I view that as a positive sign for an up-and-coming team.
Looking at Indiana’s body of work stretching back to 2019, it’s easy to fall in love with its offense. In 2019, the Hoosiers threw for more than 300 yards per game and generated the most passing plays of 20 or more yards in the Big Ten. Once the Hoosiers made the switch to Michael Penix Jr., their offense took another step forward.
In Penix Jr.’s last four starts, IU went 3-1 in Big Ten play, and he tallied nine total touchdowns against just two turnovers. We saw him account for a handful of big plays during the fourth quarter and overtime against Penn State last week, including his controversial game-winning 2-point conversion.
Despite their uneven performance against Penn State, the Hoosiers still won the turnover battle. Last season, they finished 33rd nationally in giveaways, and the offense appears to be avoiding Havoc again this season.
This turnover aversion is going to come in handy against a Rutgers defense that just produced one of the most ridiculous stat lines by a Big Ten defense ever: Nearly 25% of Michigan State’s offensive plays ended in lost yardage, a deflected pass, a fumble or an interception against Rutgers last week. Those numbers allowed Rutgers to score its big upset, but I don’t think a veteran Indiana offense will be shooting itself in the foot the same way in Piscataway.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights
The Rutgers defense deserves a standing ovation. Schiano’s defense created seven turnovers, tallied 12 tackles for loss and limited Michigan State’s running game to just 50 yards. But here’s the thing: Not all turnovers are created equal.
Take for example this Neil O’Donnell-esque interception from Michigan State’s Rocky Lombardi:
A clean pocket results in an interception without a receiver within 10 yards. Clearly a miscommunication, but that’s the football equivalent of an unforced error.
These are the kind of plays that Penix Jr. will not make against Rutgers. The 2020 Maxwell Award Watch List honoree is a much more accurate passer and should enjoy an efficiency jump from Game 1 to Game 2 right alongside his offense.
Keep in mind that, despite regularly having the football in his hands as a dual-threat quarterback, Penix Jr. has played in just one career game in which he’s posted more than one turnover. For this reason, Rutgers will have trouble creating the kind of Havoc that fueled its win over Michigan State.
In a turnover-neutral affair, Rutgers’ offense will take center stage, and that unit isn’t ready to carry things just yet. According to my colleague Darin Gardner, Rutgers’ offense was smoke and mirrors at best against Sparty. Gardner’s research revealed Rutgers was able to put up 38 points on only 170 pass yards and 2.6 yards per carry while benefiting from an incredible average starting field position of 54.6 yards from the end zone.
These stats scream regression, and that’s what I anticipate for Rutgers as a whole on Saturday.
Betting Analysis & Pick
I believe the spread in this game is accurate, but there exists significant value in placing a double result bet on Indiana — by grabbing the Hoosiers to lead at halftime and win the game, you can knock the money line from -425 down to -200.
I also lean Indiana if you can grab it under the key number of 10.
Pick: Double Result — Indiana First Half + Indiana Game (-200)