Fresh off an impressive season-opening 35-7 win over the Texas State Bobcats, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights will begin Big Ten conference play by traveling west to Columbus, Ohio, to take on the Ohio State Buckeyes. Saturday's win marked the first time in Ash's three-year Rutgers tenure that the Scarlet Knights have captured their season opener.
"It's been three years to get there," Ash said afterwards. "Opening the season 1-0 is great."
The win over Texas State was largely a result of the Scarlet Knights' success on the ground, as Raheem Blackshear and Jonathan Hilliman both had two rushing touchdowns against the Bobcats. True freshman quarterback Artur Sitkowski went 20-of-29 for 205 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions; one of the interceptions was a pick-six that gave Texas State its only points on the day.
Ohio State had an impressive season opener of its own, routing visiting Oregon State 77-31. In his first start at quarterback for the Buckeyes, Dwayne Haskins threw for 313 yards and five touchdowns. The Buckeyes also were able to pile up an impressive 375 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. Leading the Ohio State rushing attack was Mike Weber, who ran for 186 yards and three touchdowns.
Ohio State will continue to be without the services of head coach Urban Meyer. Meyer will coach the team throughout the week, but Ryan Day will serve as the interim head coach on game days until Sept. 16.
Rutgers at Ohio State
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 8 at 3:30 p.m. ET
TV: Big Ten Network
Spread: Ohio State -35
Three Things To Watch
1. Rutgers' running game vs. Ohio State's run defense
The Scarlet Knights ran for 218 yards and three touchdowns against Texas State. Ohio State gave up 196 yards on the ground to Oregon State, with a couple of long touchdowns in the second half. Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano will be looking for substantial improvement from his defense against a B1G opponent that is reliant upon its running game.
2. Rutgers' pass protection vs. Ohio State's pass rush
True freshman quarterback Artur Sitkowski will be facing a fearsome Ohio State defensive line led by Nick Bosa and Dre'Mont Jones. Bosa and Jones both had two sacks in the season-opening win over Oregon State with the former also recovering a fumble in the end zone for a Buckeyes defensive score. Look for Rutgers to try to get the ball out of Sitkowski's hands quickly to avoid sacks and possible turnovers.
3. Rutgers' pass rush vs. Ohio State's pass protection
The Scarlet Knights had three sacks and 11 tackles for a loss in their win over Texas State. Dwayne Haskins was largely untouched by Oregon State, as the Buckeyes did not give up a sack to the Beavers. Will Chris Ash try to blitz Haskins, possibly putting the Scarlet Knights' secondary in difficult coverage situations?
Chris Ash's teams at Rutgers have been improving, but the games against Ohio State have been in a completely different category, as the Scarlet Knights have not scored a point against the Buckeyes since 2014. While Rutgers is improving, the talent differential between the two teams is still quite substantial, and the Buckeyes should be able to earn their first B1G conference win of the 2018 season easily.