4 Storylines for IU’s game against Rutgers

1. Is Nate Sudfeld ready to fix an ailing IU offense?

Sudfeld appeared ready to play in last week’s game at Penn State, throwing passes and working with the first team offense during pregame warmups. IU coach Kevin Wilson said his starting quarterback was cleared to play, but Sudfeld ultimately never saw the field. Whether his injured left ankle is healthy enough to get Sudfeld into the game against Rutgers won’t be clear until kickoff, but the Hoosiers could certainly use his help. Backups Zander Diamont and Danny Cameron have combined to complete only 45 percent of their passes, and most importantly, Sudfeld’s absence has taken away IU’s ability to keep opposing defenses honest. If Sudfeld can’t go, it could be time for Cameron once again. Also, keep an eye on running back Jordan Howard, who was also mixing in with the first team offense during practice this week, Wilson said.

2. Can the Hoosiers cover Carroo?

Rutgers star receiver Leonte Carroo made a grand return to the field last week against Michigan State after missing two games due to a suspension, catching seven passes for 134 yards and three touchdowns. Despite the lost time, Carroo leads the Big Ten with six receiving touchdowns in 10 quarters played, and is averaging a touchdown every 3.8 receptions for his career. Keeping him under control will be a responsibility that sits primarily with IU cornerback Rashard Fant, who said that he watched the Rutgers-Michigan State game with a keen eye, trying to pick apart what worked and what didn’t for Spartans corners tasked with covering Carroo.

3. It’s not necessarily a must-win, but IU really can’t afford to lose.

It’s a home game and the Hoosiers are favored, with odds jumping even more to their side with the possible returns of quarterback Nate Sudfeld and/or running back Jordan Howard. These are the opportunities that a team in Year 5 under Kevin Wilson can’t waste. If Indiana is to become bowl-eligible at some point this fall, it seems imperative for Wilson’s Hoosiers to win the games they’re supposed to win. Rutgers could arrive in Bloomington fired up to have coach Kyle Flood back on the its sideline after his three-game suspension, but it’s time for IU to defend its home field against conquerable conference teams. Homecoming would a fitting occasion to start that mission.

4. Indiana’s ability to continue forcing turnovers is crucial.

At the midway point of the regular season, IU leads the Big Ten and ranks sixth in the nation with a plus-nine index in the turnover margin. Rutgers, meanwhile, is at the bottom of the league at minus-six. The Scarlet Knights have lost five fumbles and thrown five interceptions this season. Before a fourth quarter interception at Penn State last week, the Hoosiers had not committed a turnover since the first quarter against Western Kentucky — a span of 14 consecutive periods.