The offensive line has been a great strength for Rutgers the past few seasons as Ryan Hart and now Mike Teel are finding themselves spending very little time with their backs on the ground. Having given up only two sacks this season, Coach Schiano has seen good chemistry develop with his linemen and most importantly the backups are playing well also. This allows him to keep his starters fresh later in the game and give the backups some time on the field to develop awareness when seeing several different defensive schemes. Now all eyes turn towards the Ohio University Bobcats. We forgive some of you for mistaking this team for Ohio State University. It's understandable as both have already played a mutual opponent in Northern Illinois, these Universities managed to put up the same number of points in that game and each now stand with a 2-0 record. This is not a game where Schiano & Co. are going to be able to walk through the game and most certainly he is not treating it as such.
Ohio returns 17 starters with nine on defense and eight on offense - this is a veteran squad set on starting 3-0. Led by senior quarterback Austin Everson and tailback Kalvin McRae, Ohio put up 510 yards of offense against a Northern Illinois team that was expected to win the Mid-American Conference title.
Coach Schiano has seen what Ohio is capable of, "offensively they do a very good job, they are very well coached…They run the option well and they throw the ball well." With an accurate passer Ohio has the potential to expose an area that the Scarlet Knights have not truly been tested in. Previously the Knights took on Joe Dailey who was playing his first game for UNC and ended up not being a deep-ball threat and an Illinois tandem that was flat out awful passing the football. But Schiano says that his secondary is going to be ready. A large portion of their practice from the week before revolved around stopping Illinois' option game and they will continue to improve that aspect of their preparation. There is great confidence in the Rutgers secondary as they have been playing with great precision. That precision has paid off with 4 interceptions in the first two games.
Ohio has a second threat in their running back Kelvin McRae. He is a very quick back that can make people miss and has the speed to get around the corners with ease. The Rutgers defensive line was tested by Illinois' all-300 pound plus line and came up with several sacks while disallowing Illinois to convert on third down. Now they will be tested again by another large offensive line that has all five starters floating around the 300-pound mark with a slippery tailback waiting behind them. But confidence breeds success and certainly after Saturday's shutout the Rutgers defense is brimming with it.
Leslie Jackman will undergo season-ending surgery for his knee. The small upside to this is that he will still be able to turn this into a red shirt year. He had just finished fighting off a preseason hamstring injury and was starting to play well when the injury to Jason McCourty saw him with increased time in the defensive secondary.
As for Jason McCourty he will return for the Ohio University game this Saturday, but may be limited as he is not 100 percent yet. Schiano doesn't want to risk losing him as the conference games approach. The injury to Jackman and the lingering sprain to Jason McCourty will most likely lead to true freshman Zaire Kitchen seeing more playing time according to Schiano.
The Latest Polls
This week's college football polls have seen Rutgers rise to receive 32 points, taking the #31 spot in the Associated Press Poll and 23 points for the #30 position in the USA Today Coaches poll. As a member of the USA Today panel of voters, Coach Schaino talked about his process for voting. Of course coaches don't have time to see all of the top games of the week and judge their play all by themselves, and this coach is no different. He has his assistant, Jason Mitchell, bring him a report of the top games, scores and they sit down together and phone in his rankings Sunday morning. He states that "A win on the road might be a little bit more than a win at home," but he has no set philosophy for rating teams. He takes it seriously and spends a lot of time figuring out his poll. He didn't comment on his poll this week and wisely sidestepped creating a media incident by indicating whether or not he voted for his own team.
On Head Coach Frank Solich & His Bobcats
As Illinois leaves with Ron Zook, Ohio comes to Rutgers this weekend along with another well known coach. Head Coach Frank Solich was the former Head Coach at Nebraska who now finds himself molding and developing a previously maligned Ohio Bobcats team. While much was made nationally of their upset over the University of Pittsburgh last year, they are not zeroing on those opportunities against major conferences. Solich just wants to get some wins and build the program and it doesn't matter who those wins come against. For Ohio, each week is a struggle, especially when you are typically at the bottom of the barrel in your conference. This line is no stranger to long suffering Rutgers fans who got to know the bottom of the barrel intimately for the past 30 years before their recent surge. Things are on the upswing though for this team as well. They have particularly benefited from summer scholarships that had not been previously offered until Solich showed up. It has allowed them to develop player chemistry by attending class and strength training together in the off-season.
Having seen what Rutgers' defense did to Illinois, Coach Solich is worried about being able to protect his quarterback against Rutgers speedy defensive linemen. He has a similar defensive scheme to Rutgers and hopes that will help with their preparation. The defense is spearheaded by linebacker #50 Matt Muncy and defensive tackle #55 Landon Cohen - they have the agility to make plays and give the Scarlet Knights a true test. Even though the Bobcats gave up almost 200 yards to Garrett Wolfe, it was against the top rushing running back in the country (Wolfe has rushed for 171 and 196 yards in his first two games). Schiano has named those two defensive players as the focus of the offensive line as the Scarlet Knights look to strike back with their own running back tandem.