|Matchup Preview | October 17, 2014|
|Rutgers Scarlet Knights|
(5-1, 2-0 Away)
|#20 Ohio State Buckeyes|
(4-1, 2-1 Home)
Five Fast Facts About Rutgers
1. Rutgers will likely play in front of the largest crowd in school history, as the current record is the 103,925 in attendance for the team’s 2002 game at Tennessee.
3. Rutgers is 21-3 in the last three seasons when attempting at least 35 rushes in a game and 18-2 when scoring at least 20 points, and with a win the Knights would become bowl eligible for the ninth time in 10 seasons.
4. Quarterback Gary Nova has earned offensive player of the week honors in three difference conferences – the Big East, the AAC and the Big Ten – making him likely the first player in college football history to earn that honor.
OHIO STATE RUSH OFFENSE vs. RUTGERS RUSH DEFENSE
It’s hard not to like what Ohio State is doing in this realm right now as the team has topped 250 rushing yards in three consecutive games, and Ezekiel Elliott is at another level over the past few games. Rutgers is allowing 135.0 yards per game on the ground, including an average of just 111.0 in games vs. Penn State and Michigan in Big Ten play. The Scarlet Knights don’t have the biggest defense in the Big Ten but it is a unit marked by quickness and toughness. It will be interesting to see if the Scarlet Knights try to stack the line like some of OSU’s previous opponents, but our guess is the Buckeyes will continue having success on the ground until they don’t. EDGE: OHIO STATE
RUTGERS RUSH OFFENSE vs. OHIO STATE RUSH DEFENSE
The Scarlet Knights got a big blow when starting running back Paul James, who had 5.8 yards per carry and five touchdowns in the first four games, suffered a season-ending knee injury in the Tulane win Sept. 27. The running game hasn’t been nearly as effective since, as Desmon Peoples and Justin Goodwin are combining to average 4.1 yards per carry. Ohio State’s rush defense has been pretty good, though it hasn’t faced a team with an elite rushing unit yet. Rutgers doesn’t qualify there, either, and OSU should be able to keep the Scarlet Knights from making much of an impact on the ground. EDGE: OHIO STATE
OHIO STATE PASS OFFENSE vs. RUTGERS PASS DEFENSE
Does J.T. Barrett have to slow down at some point? He’s thrown for 14 touchdowns in three games and has rocketed to fourth in the nation in passing efficiency despite a 9-for-29, three-interception outing vs. Virginia Tech. Barrett and his receivers have added chemistry and production the past few weeks, and they’ll need each of those against Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights’ pass efficiency numbers aren’t great – opponents are completing 60.4 percent of passes – but they have allowed only six passing TDs in six games and are among the best teams in the nation when it comes to getting to the quarterback with 24 sacks, so it will be a challenge for the O-line. EDGE: EVEN
RUTGERS PASS OFFENSE vs. OHIO STATE PASS DEFENSE
This matchup could depend on which Gary Nova shows up for Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights QB has been up and down, throwing for 404 yards in the win against Michigan but tossing five interceptions in the loss to Penn State. The school record holder for career touchdown passes, Nova is experienced but still makes his fair share of mistakes. He has some worthy targets including Leonte Carroo, who has a team-best 29 catches and five touchdowns, and Andrew Turzilli, who had TDs of 93 and 80 yards this year. This area of the defense is slowly working into form for Ohio State, but the passing game seems to be where Rutgers is making most of its hay since the James injury. EDGE: EVEN
Kicker Kevin Fedorico is among the better ones in the Big Ten having made 8 of 10 tries, but the rest of the Scarlet Knights’ kicking game is pretty mediocre. The team also has solid coverage units, but it sits between 52nd and 72nd in net punting, kick returns and punt returns. Ohio State’s coverage units have become a real strength in the eye of head coach Urban Meyer and the specialists are dependable as well. EDGE: OHIO STATE
Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes’ players said after the Maryland win that they wish the team could have kept playing rather than go through another open week, so it’ll be interesting to see how OSU responds to the time off. It’s clear the Buckeyes made good use of the first open week, so will history repeat itself? On the Rutgers side, the Scarlet Knights will likely enter Ohio Stadium feeling they can compete after close games against Michigan and Penn State to begin conference play. Playing in front of an unprecedented crowd could have an impact, though. EDGE: EVEN
This space has been conservative with Ohio State’s projected point totals of late but it’s time to expect big things from the Buckeyes, who clearly have started to forge an identity on offense. Rutgers is a solid team with a good defense, but Ohio State has shown it has enough weapons to put a lot of points on the board. That should definitely be the case in the state university of New Jersey’s first-ever trip to Columbus. The homecoming game should follow the pattern of OSU’s last two wins – a fast start leads to a win going away. OHIO STATE 50-21
The staff pick is an average of predictions by staffers Kane Anderson, Ryan Ginn, Matthew Hager, Mark Rea, Jeff Svoboda and Blake Williams