What do we know about Ohio State this season? How good are they compared to the top teams in the country? Not sure anyone has those answers just yet. A terrible schedule, combined with a bad home loss, kind of skews the evaluation right now for the Buckeyes.
What about this week's game with Rutgers? Will much be learned? How can Rutgers beat Ohio State? Is there a way for them to get out of Columbus with a win?
The one thing we have learned this year is that for teams to have success against Ohio State, you had better turn it into a street fight and not allow it to become a track meet. Navy and Virginia Tech kept things close by matching or exceeding Ohio State's physicality, with the Hokies actually coming away with the "W".
Cincinnati and Maryland just didn't have enough lead in their pants within the defensive front-seven to challenge the Ohio State offense, and the game got out of hand early. They let the Buckeyes establish the inside run, and then they had to play catchup on a team that was out of the gate and running. No chance with this method.
Clemson and Michigan State showed last year that the best way to beat Ohio State was to stay close through three quarters, and then dominate the fourth quarter. Virginia Tech followed the same script. Sounds easy, but you better have the requisite talent to follow this plan. For Virginia Tech, it was whipping the Ohio State offensive line badly at the point of attack, and destroying the running game. They stayed close, and owned the fourth quarter, much like Clemson and Michigan State did.
How can Rutgers keep this one tight late, and then find a way to win? My advice would be to sell out and do anything/everything to stop the run. If J.T. Barrett and the recievers can get over you, then you get beat. But stopping the run should be Job-One, by whatever means necessary.
If you look at the Rutgers defense and see how they did against their opponents, it looks like they have a problem. Washington State throws every down, so that's not even worth looking at. Navy is a team so one-dimensional, that I'm not looking at that either. It's not a normal offense, so I didn't learn anything from Rutgers and their ability to stop the run against the Midshipmen.
The stickler for me is the game with Howard, an absolutely putrid team. A team probably worse than Kent State. In that game, Howard actually out-gained Rutgers, and rushed for over 250 yards on 43 carries. This does not bode well for Rutgers, because 43 carries for 250 yards is not a fluke. That's two hours worth of moving people. Rutgers did stop Penn State from running the football, but I'm not sure the Nittany Lions have the beef up front to run on anyone. Their only hope is on Christian Hackenberg's arm, so I'm not sure stopping Penn State's running game gives Rutgers hope at stopping Ohio State from running the football.
Tulane, another God awful squad, ran for 152 yards and averaged over 5 yards per rush against Rutgers. Not good. Michigan, with all their running game issues, ran for 158 yards and averaged 4.5 per rush. Simply put, Rutgers cannot stop the run. This gives them little shot against Ohio State, unless the Buckeyes turn it over four+ times.
By not cutting off the inside running, Rutgers allows Ohio State to start fast and establish tempo, rhythm, and exactly how the game is going to be played. That leads to a first quarter score of OSU 21 Rutgers 3, and church is out early.
Once Ohio State rolls up on teams early, they're out the gate and can play free and easy. They are a different team in a slugfest, one that's tight in the fourth quarter, where you need to out-coach and out-gut teams for the win. I do not expect that type of game. I'm expecting a repeat of Cincinnati and Maryland, with a similar score at the end.
Because Ohio State will run at will, and thus be able to pass in a stress-free environment, I'm calling this one OSU 45 Rutgers 17. I think halftime will be something like 28-10.