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IU football comes into Rutgers matchup as heavy favorites


Redshirt freshman quarterback Michael Penix Jr. peers over Michigan State’s defensive linemen Sept. 28 in Spartan Stadium. IU is heavily favored to win against Rutgers, who it will play Saturday. Alex Deryn

It’s no longer hot in Bloomington, the leaves are just starting to change colors and it’s finally homecoming weekend at IU.

The Hoosiers are set to take on Rutgers this weekend and find themselves in unfamiliar territory. The Hoosiers are favored to win by 28 points over the Scarlet Knights — the largest margin in over 20 years — and are looking to earn their first Big Ten win of the season.

Rutgers who is 1-4 on the season and 0-3 in conference play hasn't won a Big Ten game since Nov. 4, 2017, and have been outscored a combined 130-7 against conference opponents so far this season.

Despite being heavily favored, IU head coach Tom Allen refuses to take anything for granted as he prepares his team for Saturday’s matchup.

“Been in this league long enough to know those things are irrelevant,” Allen said. “I know that we’re playing a Big Ten football team all Saturday. We’ll have to be at our very best. That’s the absolute truth.”

Two weeks ago in East Lansing, Michigan, as IU took on Michigan State, the Hoosiers showed what their best could possibly look like as they took the then-No. 25 Spartans down to the wire before falling 40-31.

This week, IU faces a very different challenge. 

While the Spartan’s theme has been in place since 2007 when head coach Mark Dantonio took over at Michigan St., Rutgers comes in with a fresh coaching staff led by interim head coach Nunzio Campanile.

Campanile was given control after only three games when Chris Ash was fired earlier this season and has already had to face his fair-share of problems.

Before stepping onto the field to call his first game, Campanile was thrown a curveball as his two best players junior running back Raheem Blackshear and sophomore quarterback Artur Sitkowski asked to not play so they could preserve their redshirt eligibility for the remainder of the season.

When Campanile finally did take the field, the Scarlet Knights fell to Maryland 48-7. For IU — coming off its bye week — that means at least had some game film to pick through as it has spent these two weeks preparing.

A common theme for both Allen and IU defensive coordinator Kane Wommack during the team’s weekly media availability was stopping the run. Both praised sophomore running back Isaih Pacheco who has been thrust into the starting role since Blackshear announced that he would be redshirting this season.

“Their running back, I think, is a very good football player,” Wommack said. “The way that he moves, the way that he attacks the line of scrimmage and plays downhill. They have a nice run game”

Pacheco has been a consistent contributor in a struggling Scarlet Knights offense rushing for 340 yards, four touchdowns and averaging 4.5 yards per carry.

Rutgers has struggled this season passing the ball averaging only 201.3 passing yards per game — 102 ranked in the country — so if IU plug the holes at the line of scrimmage, the defense may start to live up to both Allen and Wommack’s lofty expectations.

IU will look to not squander what appears to be a winnable game with a chance to win its first homecoming game since beating Arkansas State University back in 2010.

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