Who: No. 13 Ohio State (4-1, 1-0) vs. Rutgers (5-1, 1-1)
When: Saturday, Sept 18th at 3:30 ET
Where: Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio
TV: ABC/ESPN 2
Rutgers looks to match its win total from a year ago and get its first signature victory in the Big10, as Ohio State looks to continue gaining momentum on the Buckeye’s collision course with Sparty in East Lansing on November 8th.
The Scarlet Knights finished an abysmal 6-7 a year ago, and in doing so, became the butt of Big 10 expansion jokes, but 2014 looks to rejuvenate the program who is currently 5-1 and looking for a statement win in Columbus. If they get it, it will be in front of the largest crowd to ever view a Rutgers football game. Previously, that mark was set by a 2002 trip to Tennessee, in which the Knights lost 35-14 to the Volunteers in front of 103,925 fans.
So what are the keys for the Buckeyes to keep their dark horse playoff hopes alive? Well, maybe you should keep reading before asking that kind of question.
A Not-So-Super Nova
Gary Nova is a four-year starter at Rutgers, but was benched last year due to a lack of performance. Similarly to the Scarlet Knights as whole, 2014 has been much improved. Nova currently ranks fifth in the nation in terms of total passer rating at 170.9, but he has flashed glimpses of his old self this year.
In their only loss of the season, Nova threw five interceptions in a 13-10 defeat at the hands of the Nittany Lions. The Buckeyes will hope to create enough pressure to bring the Penn State Nova out to play, and not the Rutgers’ QB who threw for over 400 yards and three touchdowns against TTUN.
Very Special Teams
A 20-point underdog, which Rutgers is, can turn a game around very quickly and gain a lot of momentum by blocking a punt. Urban Meyer prides himself on his ability to get after punts, but so does Rutgers Head Coach, Kyle Flood. Since 2009, the Scarlet Knights have blocked 40 kicks, which is the most during that span. They currently lead the nation with five blocked kicks this year, so it will be vital for Ohio State to handle their business on special teams and not concede huge momentum swings.
Continued Development of the O-Line
Meyer has been pleased with the progression of his very green offensive line, but it remains his top concern for the Buckeyes, and they will face a tough test this week. Rutgers ranks third in the country with 24 sacks, and the defensive line is also stout against the run. The Scarlet Knights rank fifth in the nation in rush defense, conceding only 110.2 yards a game.
Ezekial Elliot will look to get running downhill early in order to give JT Barrett some extra time in the pocket with effective play-action. Elliot has rushed for 321 yards in Ohio State’s last two games alone.
No Bye Week Rust
With the momentum the Buckeyes have gained with their last three blowout victories, a lot of Ohio State fans were not happy to see their second bye week come so soon, but no need to worry. JT Barrett threw for 330 yards and four touchdowns following Ohio State’s last bye, so extra time to prepare has not been an issue for the redshirt freshman.
I have a feeling this game will look very similar to the Maryland game, just with a lot more fans in the stands. The Buckeyes will get off to fast start, benefitting from a couple Gary Nova interceptions, and never look back. Once again, Ohio State will give a fairly-talented team a rude welcoming to the Big Ten.
Buckeyes Win 52-20
Cover Photo: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
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