2021 Game Preview: Ohio State vs Rutgers

Ohio State enters back into Big 10 conference play, where they are 1-0 already after defeating Minnesota in week 1 of the season. After going 3-1 their previous 4 games, and 3 straight home games, they travel to the Garden State to try and improve on their chances for a 5th straight Big 10 Championship game appearance, and 3rd straight CFP appearance. All signs point to CJ Stroud being back after missing last week due to his injured shoulder, and the Buckeyes proved they were able to take care of an overmatched Akron team without him. 

This game will be a bit under the radar with several ranked vs ranked teams around the country, but it is still a must win for the Buckeyes. They dropped one spot in the AP poll despite their win, and can use a boost with a win against an much improved Rutgers team. This game will be broadcasted on the Big 10 network at 3:30pm, a second straight Big 10 Network game for the Buckeyes, and 2nd 3:30pm kick in 3 weeks. 

Head Coach: Greg Schiano (2nd year, 13th overall)
2021 Record: 3-1
Location: New Brunswick, NJ
Conference: Big 10

Ohio State Preview: Ohio State should be coming back to nearly full strength this week as they will get back CJ Stroud, and potentially Thayer Munford as they prepare for their road game against the Scarlet Knights. Kyle McCord took a series to get comfortable, and was able to make some nice deep throughs to help him pass for 319 yards in his first start as a Buckeye, but Ryan Day still believes Stroud is the best option to lead this offense. Truth be told, not matter who is the quarterback, they can depend on a emerging running game behind freshman TreVeyon Henderson, who leads the nation in rushing for 9.5 yards a carry with at least 40 carries. 

The defense is starting to get a bit better by identifying who their best 11 is and who they can depend on when the moments matter. We were not going to get anything definitive out of the Akron game simply because of the talent difference, but the picture is clearing up on who the stars are with the defensive backs (Burke, Hickman, Brown, and Martinez) and who are dependable linebackers (Chambers, Mitchell, Young). The defensive line was also able to start applying pressure which is what we expect from that unit, and with the pressure, they can help out the back 7 through their growing pains. 

CJ Stroud leads the team in passing yards with 963 yards for the season through 3 games, along with 8 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. Even though he was off with his throwing to start, McCord can be a dependable option if Stroud is still hurt, and is second on the team with 319 yards passing with 2 touchdowns and 1 interception. 

TreVeyon Henderson became the team leader in rushing with 439 yards on the ground on 46 carries and 6 touchdowns. He has shown to be an option in the passing game as well with 3 catches for 87 yards and 1 touchdown. Miyan Williams returned to action last week against Akron, and now has 249 yards rushing with 1 touchdown, and averaging 7.9 yards a carry. Master Teague is still third on the team in rushing yards with 162 yards and 2 touchdowns. 

Garrett Wilson still paces the wide receivers with 391 yards on 23 catches and 3 touchdowns. Chris Olave added 2 catches last game and brought his catch and yardage total to 18 catches for 255 yards and 3 touchdowns. Jaxon Smith-Njigba is now the second leading receiver with 15 catches for 283 yards and 3 touchdowns.  

Rutgers Preview: Greg Schiano is now in his 13th season as the Scarlet Knights head coach, and 2nd season since returning back from this earlier stint from 2001-2011. If there is one thing to be said about this team, it is that it takes on the personality of its coach, and that is a defensive team that is tough to score on. They have a decent offense who doesnt make many mistakes, but not anyone with star power on the offensive side of the ball. They have not allowed a point scored in the 4th quarter for the first 4 games of the season where they have a 3-1 record, their first loss coming at the hands of Michigan last week after not allowing the Wolverines to score in the second half. 

The opened up the season with a 61-14 win against Temple at home, and then went on the short road trip to Syracuse and won 17-7. They then hosted FCS opponent Delaware, and won 45-13. For their second straight week against an opponent with a winged helmet, they went on the road to play the original, and lost 20-13. This week they are a 15 point home underdog, their closest point spread against Ohio State in all 7 match-ups, which speaks to the level of improvement for this team. 

Their offense is lead by quarterback Noah Vedral, who has 762 yards passing with 5 touchdowns and no interceptions. He is also the teams second leading rusher with 117 yards on 33 carries. He is the only quarterback who has played significant snaps.

At running back, Isaih Pacheco leads the team in rushing yards with 259 yards on 65 carries and 3 touchdowns. The next leading rusher is Kyle Monangai who has 78 yards on 24 carries and 3 touchdowns. 

At receiver, the top targets are Bo Melton and Aron Cruickshank. Melton leads the team with 24 receptions and 253 yards with 2 touchdowns. Cruickshank is second on the team with 14 receptions and 104 yards. 

Buckeye Spotlight: TreVeyon Henderson. Ryan Day admitted that CJ Stroud would be the starter if healthy, and all signs point to that being the case this week after player interviews. While CJ Stroud is settling back in after missing a week, Henderson will be the go to guy to help carry this offense as they start to build back momentum. 

Scarlet Knight Spotlight: Olakunle Fatuski. The linebacker who is the key to the Rutgers defense has 36 total tackles, 6.5 tackles for a loss, and 2.5 sacks. He was an All-Big Ten selection in 2020, and on this years Butkus, Bednarik, and Nagurski award watch list.

Water Cooler Stat of the Game:  42. According to Tom Orr of the Buckeye Scoop, in the last 7 meetings, Ohio State has scored at least 42 points before Rutgers has even scored double digits. 

Prediction: Rutgers will bring one of the more experienced defenses Ohio State will see this year, and it will be hard to forget the several trick plays they ran against Ohio State last year. Rutgers attempted to run a few last week against Michigan, but got stopped. If anything, it will be the Rutgers defense that keeps this in this game, but Ohio State will find its groove and rely on the legs of TreVeyon Henderson as the continue to get their quarterback situation sorted out. 

Ohio State 45 – Rutgers 20

Photo Credit to Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

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