In what will mark the second Big Ten conference game of the 2017 college football season for both teams, the Ohio State Buckeyes will travel to High Point Solutions Stadium in Piscataway, New Jersey, to play the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. This game will mark the second time the Buckeyes will be facing former OSU assistant Chris Ash, who is now the head coach for Rutgers.
Rutgers is 1-3 so far this season and is coming off a difficult loss on the road at Nebraska, 27-17. Ash is slowly and methodically rebuilding the Scarlet Knights, relying upon his expertise as a defensive coach while turning to former Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill as his offensive coordinator. While the results are not where Ash or Rutgers fans would like them to be, Ash's former boss at Ohio State was effusive in his praise of his former assistant in his press conference on Sept. 25.
"They're much better, the most improved defense I've seen in the country this year," Meyer said. "From last year to this year, they changed some things how they do business, and I just got done watching four hours of them on film. ... Defensively, they had Washington, I think, held to 10 points in the middle of the fourth quarter. Much improved on defense. You can see Chris Ash's fundamentals on it and also scheme."
Ohio State comes into the game at 3-1, having defeated UNLV 54-21 in its most recent game. The Buckeyes were in complete command the entire way, leading the Rebels 44-7 at the half, allowing Meyer to substitute liberally for almost the entire game. Senior quarterback J.T. Barrett threw five touchdown passes and was done for the day before the end of the second quarter.
Ohio State at Rutgers
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 30 at 7:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: Big Ten Network
Spread: Ohio State -28.5
Three Things To Watch
1. Continued evolution of Ohio State's offense vs. Rutgers' defense
After the humiliating home loss to Oklahoma in week two, Ohio State has concentrated on developing a consistent offensive philosophy that plays to the strengths of J.T. Barrett at quarterback. Barrett had a spectacular game against UNLV and will be looking to build on his positive performance. Chris Ash is very familiar with several players on Ohio State's roster, including Barrett, and may try to use some different coverage schemes that the Buckeyes have not seen or prepared for. Rutgers intercepted Nebraska's Tanner Lee twice in their game last week.
2. Rutgers' passing game vs. Ohio State's secondary
Rutgers was without star wide receiver Janarion Grant against Nebraska but will have Grant back against Ohio State. While the Scarlet Knights' offensive attack is built more around its running game, they may want to take advantage of an Ohio State secondary that is struggling. The Buckeyes had several pass interference penalties against UNLV, so Rutgers may want to test Ohio State's young, still-developing DBs.
3. Rutgers' running Game vs. Ohio State's run defense
Rutgers will try to establish a running game led by senior running back and Miami (Fla.) transfer Gus Edwards. Listed at 6-foot-1 and 235 pounds, Edwards is averaging 4.2 yards per carry this season. Senior running back Robert Martin (5-11, 212) is a solid complement to Edwards in the backfield. Ohio State's run defense is currently ranked 74th in the country, giving up an average of 139 yards per game on the ground. Running the ball and controlling the clock may be the best offensive strategy for the Scarlet Knights.
Ohio State is coming off two strong performances against Army and UNLV and will look to make it three in a row with a win over Rutgers. Chris Ash is making Rutgers a better football team, but the Scarlet Knights do not have the depth and speed to keep pace with the Buckeyes beyond the first half. Urban Meyer will use this game as another opportunity to get his younger players some much-needed game experience.