2020 Game Preview: Ohio State vs Rutgers
Ohio State’s win last week against Penn State solidified themselves as one of the best teams in the country, despite the late start for the Big Ten. They enter this week ranked 3rd in both the Coaches and AP Poll, as well as being ranked 1st in ESPN’s SP+ and FPI rankings, which is forward projections based on schedule. Not to knock the rest of the Big Ten, but the game last week was Ohio State’s toughest regular season game, and it would take a meltdown of Purdue and Iowa proportions to lose a game between now, and potentially January 1 as one of the playoff teams. We are hoping the dont lose again, and a National Title is in the future.
Ohio State plays in prime time for the second straight week, as this game is the night cap for BTN, and kickoff will be in Ohio Stadium at 7:30PM. Unfortunately, this game will compete with the same time window of the game of the week, Clemson vs Notre Dame, which is a conference game (2020!) and the winner of this game stays in the top 4, while the loser has a chance to drop out, but this match up might be the first of 2 if they meet again in the ACC Championship Game.
Even though there is that game going on, this will be a good game to turn into for Ohio State fans for several reasons. First, games are a commodity to not take for granted this season, so the fact that this game has a chance to be played is reason enough to tune in. Second, this will most likely be a stat packing game for Justin Fields, who is still trying to build up his Heisman campaign as he is one of the front runners along with Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, and Alabama’s Mac Jones. Third, depending on how big of a lead the Buckeyes can get, this will be a good game to see the depth of Ohio State, and get a flavor of what to see for the team next year.
Above all though, this is a game the Buckeyes need to win, and in order to get to 11-0, they must first get to 3-0, and the team standing in their way is Rutgers, who have made a turn around from last year under Greg Schiano’s return as head coach.
Head Coach: Greg Schiano
2020 Record: 1-1
Location: New Brunswick, NJ
Conference: Big Ten
Ohio State Preview: From week 1 to week 2, Ohio State was able to correct or answer some concerns about their team. At this point, they are not being compared with other teams in the Big Ten, but with the teams competing for a National Championship, and that is to be expected with Ohio State, and how much they have been dominating their conference. Ryan Day does a masterful job on the offensive side, and really utilizes the weapons he has. Master Teague shown as a lead running back, and allowed Fields to not have to run as much, and sliced through the Penn State secondary.
Even with the late start, Ohio State finds themselves in the thick of where they want to be with their rankings, and Justin Fields being one of the top candidates in Heisman straw polls, and with Lawrence out for 2 weeks due to “injury” after testing positive with COVID, it opened up the door. With a shortened season, Ohio State needs to look impressive every week, and show that they are one of the best 4 teams in the country, as this year might be more of an emphasis on the eye test than any other year since the playoffs started.
Justin Fields can use this game to help build his stats and strengthen his Heisman standing, as there will probably be a lot of voters who focus on the stats part of the candidates. He already has 594 yards on to go along with 6 passing touchdowns. He did not rush much against Penn State, but has 50 yards on 21 carries and a touchdown. His season seems to be similar so far to Troy Smith’s 2006 campaign.
Master Teague separated himself a bit as the lead running back for the team, with 151 yards on 35 carries, and 3 touchdowns. Trey Sermon though is still making use of his carries, with 104 yards on 24 carries, and has not yet registered a touchdown this season. It will be interesting to see if Ohio State uses more jet sweeps with the receivers, or H back, as Garrett Wilson gashed Penn State with a 62 yard run.
Wilson though is effective in the passing game, leading the team in receptions (18) and yards so far with 240, and 1 touchdown for the year. Chris Olave is next on the team with 13 catches with 224 yards and 2 touchdowns. The tight ends so far have been involved in the passing game too, as Jeremy Ruckert is next on the team with 5 catches for 31 yards and 2 touchdowns. The Buckeyes have been playing a lot of 12 formation sets (2 tight ends) so it will be interesting to see if that stays moving forward, or if they will go into more spread sets to get their young receivers on the field.
The defense has been strong so far, but they have given up more yardage so far per game than last years team did, but they have a few weeks now to work on that and tighten their secondary. They have 8 sacks on the season, led by defensive tackle Tommy Togiai, who has 3 for the year. They key will be getting rotation and experience for this team for the next few weeks to keep them fresh, and give them experience.
Rutgers Preview: Greg Schiano returned as the head coach for Rutgers after taking a year off of coaching from being one of the defensive coordinators for Ohio State in 2018. He was passed over for the Tennessee job in 2017, but still stuck around until Ryan Day took over as full time head coach. Despite being replaced, he still has good relationships with the staff at Ohio State, including athletic director Gene Smith. In his first stint as the head coach, he had a overall record of 68-67, marred by some rough seasons at the start of his career, but peaked in 2006 when he led the Scarlet Knights to a 11-2 record, with a win against Kansas State in the Texas Bowl, and finished 12th in the Coaches and AP Polls. His task this time around will be tougher, as the culture of the program has been hurt by poor recruiting, and below .500 records, but if there is anyone who can do it, it might be Schiano.
The first two game have been impressive turnaround so far, with an opening game win against Michigan State, who just beat Michigan, but lost last week to Indiana, in a game that was closer than the final score indicated. They have tightened up their rush defense, and should be interesting to see how well they can do against the Buckeyes.
The Scarlet Knights are led by quarterback Noah Vedral, who is a transfer from Nebraska, and prior to that UCF. He leads the team in passing with 299 yards, to go along with 3 touchdown and 4 interceptions. He is 3rd on the team in rushing yards with 40 yards on 23 carries, and a touchdown. He is not as mobile as Adrian Martinez or Sean Clifford.
Leading the rushing attack is Isaih Pacheco, who has 85 yards on 28 carries, and 2 touchdowns. Behind him is Kay’Ron Adams, who has 63 yards on 5 carries and a touchdown. Aaron Young is also mixed into the running back rotation, with 11 carries and 31 yards so far this season.
Bo Milton has been the favorite receiver for Vedral, and he leads the team with 98 yards on 8 receptions and 2 touchdowns. Running back Isaih Pacheco is another dangerous weapon with the most catches on the team at 9, and has 69 yards receiving. Behind them are receivers Aron Cruickshank and Shameen Jones, who have 56 yards and 51 yards respectively.
The defense is the strength though for this team, and they have already forced 7 takeaways, 2 interceptions and 5 forced fumbles. They also have gotten to the quarterback 4 times in 2 games, led by linebacker Mohamed Toure, who has 2 of those sacks.
Buckeye Spotlight: Garrett Wilson/Chris Olave. The duo have become the first duo of receivers to have back to back 100 yards games each, and it will be interesting to see if they are able to make it 3 games in a row. The two are probably some of the best receivers in the country, and they might have a limited playing time to reach those marks.
Scarlet Knights Spotlight: Noah Vedral. The Journeyman who transferred from UCF, to Nebraska, and now Rutgers is the starting QB, and will be the key to trying to get any momentum against the Buckeye’s defense. He is not as much of the threat running that the past two teams Ohio State had, but he can do some damage in the air.
Water Cooler Stat of the Game: 327-48. For a match up that has only been played when Rutgers joined the Big 10 in 2014 between these two storied programs, the series has been very lopsided. Ohio State has a total points advantage in the 6 games played so far of 327-48, or averaging 54.5 points a game to Rutgers 8. Two of those match ups, Ohio State shut down Rutgers from scoring.
Prediction: Even with the turnaround for the Scarlet Knights, this game shouldn’t be close, and there is a reason the spread continues to increase. Ohio State has too much talent on their side, and even though Rutgers was able to score 21 points against the Buckeyes last year, the offense, especially in the passing game, should keep the score distanced, and the defense should be able to regroup after a rougher second half from the Penn State game, and show their dominance. Fields should have another 300 yard passing game, and not need to rely on his legs once more, and I anticipate we will see more depth and rotation at the wide receiver position once the second half kicks off. Buckeyes cruise to improve to 3-0.
Ohio State 56 – Rutgers 10
Photo Credit to WSYX