While the Scarlet Knights (5-1, 1-1) are far from a traditional conference opponent, the Buckeyes know that a win over Rutgers counts just the same in the Big Ten standings.
“Just like with any team we’re going to play in the Big Ten they’re all going to have good players, they’re all going to have solid players,” offensive tackle Taylor Decker said. “We can’t overlook any team.”
Rutgers have as good an overall record as any team in the conference, sitting at 5-1 along with Michigan State, Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska. They are receiving votes in both the Associated Press and Coaches’ poll this week.
The Scarlet Knights’ level of competition, however, is questionable. Their five wins have come against teams that have a combined record of 11-23. Rutgers was the first Big Ten team to secure a win over a Power 5 conference, knocking off Washington State in Seattle in the first week of the season. The Cougars, however, have stumbled to a 2-5 record, though they did play within a score of Oregon in Week 4.
In terms of records, Rutgers strongest wins have come against a pair of 3-4 teams in Navy and Michigan. They are 1-1 in the conference, having fallen to Penn State in the first Big Ten game of the season.
Lackluster schedule or not, the Scarlet Knights remain a 5-1 team, equaling the best record of anyone left on the Buckeyes schedule. Most of their success has come through the air as they don’t have a player in the top 10 in the conference in rushing. Quarterback Gary Nova, meanwhile, is third in the league with 266.8 yards passing a game, second with 13 touchdowns and second in pass efficiency. His 10.7 yards an attempt are tops in the nation.
“He will make the right call because he can read the defenses very well,” safety Tyvis Powell said of Nova. “He’ll definitely get them in the right call. It’s just basically coming out with disguises and stuff and not giving tips about what could be open. It’s about being real disciplined with that.
“I’ve seen him make some throws that I said, ‘I can’t believe he threw that,’ but he actually completed it. He’s got a lot of faith in his arm, and that’s good to see.”
Nova has tossed seven interceptions this season, which should bode well for a Buckeyes secondary that leads the conference with nine picks. Ohio State also looks to have an advantage when they are throwing the ball as the Buckeyes are No. 1 in the Big Ten in pass efficiency while Rutgers is 13th in pass efficiency defense.
Decker admits that he knew little about the Scarlet Knights before they joined the conference, and why would he? But the senior is ready to get acquainted.
“You never want to overlook an opponent,” he said. “Everybody’s going to have good players, and they have good players. You want to have respect for your opponent, but also realize that if we go out and do what we’re supposed to do, that’s going to dictate how the game’s going to go.”