It’s been more than a week since the Ohio State football team took the field against an opponent. With rain expected this Saturday, Buckeye fans will most likely need to don their ponchos and rainboots to watch OSU open Big Ten play against Rutgers.
Led by former OSU defensive coordinator Chris Ash, the Scarlet Knights have earned their way to a 2-2 record so far, with wins over Howard University and New Mexico. Last week, Rutgers fell to Iowa 14-7 in a defensive battle that saw each team netting more than 350 total yards a piece, but failing to frequently find the endzone.
While Rutgers is in good hands with Ash at the helm, the Buckeyes appear to have the upper hand in this matchup, both statistically speaking and in terms of skill.
Two top performers for the Scarlet Knights — wide receiver Janarion Grant and defensive tackle Darius Hamilton — were lost to injury last week. OSU coach Urban Meyer gave his sentiment to the team and the injured players.
“Any time a young guy gets hurt you just wish them the best, and they’re both really good players,” Meyer said.
The offense of Rutgers benefitted from the dynamic play ability of Grant, who currently leads the team in both rushing touchdowns and receiving yards. But the Scarlet Knights will need to look elsewhere for offensive production this week.
Leaning heavily on a potent running attack led by junior running back Robert Martin, Rutgers has averaged 4.7 yards per carry. Overall, the team has totaled 881 rushing yards, a mere 38 yards behind OSU’s rushing attack.
In terms of passing, senior quarterback Chris Laviano has struggled to provide consistency. Completing just 52.5 percent of his passes, the team has struggled to put the ball in the hands of its receivers, resulting in a passing offense that ranks 110th in completion percentage.
Senior wide receiver Andre Patton has recorded three of Laviano’s five touchdown passes this season, He averages 13.5 yards per reception. Sophomore wide receiver Jawuan Harris is second on the team with 183 yards, trailing only Grant.
The offensive line has struggled to keep pressure away from Laviano. On average, he has been sacked 2.3 times per game. With the play of OSU’s defensive lineman so far, it could be a long day for the senior.
Rutgers has struggled to slow opposing offenses this season. Surrendering 399 yards per game, the Scarlet Knights have not produced similar numbers with Ash at the helm as OSU did during his tenure in Columbus.
Although the team has not shown a stout defense this year, Meyer said the schemes Rutgers runs are Ash’s through and through, and look nearly identical to the Buckeyes approach.
“Yes, it’s our defense,” Meyer said.
Redshirt sophomore Kiy Hester currently leads the team in total tackles, followed by sophomore linebacker Deontre Roberts.
Last season, Rutgers ranked nearly last in pass yards allowed. After ranking 118th nationally in that category, the Scarlet Knights have underwent a complete overhaul of the position.
Opposing offenses have been limited 206.7 yards per game against Rutgers. Even with the improvements of the secondary, the team’s defense has been gashed so far this year against the run.
OSU has leaned heavily on its rushing attack this season, while the Scarlet Knights have struggled to keep opponents under 200 yards per game on the ground.
Rutgers is on the rise as a team, improving in multiple positions statistically from last season and earning its way to a .500 record thus far.
But it will take more than just a little improvement to knock off an OSU team that is outscoring opponents by more than 44 points, and averages 3.7 takeaways a game.
OSU has too strong of an offense and too stout of a defense for Rutgers to potentially upset the Buckeyes. With Big Ten play opening this Saturday, the Scarlet and Gray should have no problem emerging with an unblemished record.