Lance the Knights: Ohio State – Rutgers Preview

With the non-conference slate behind them, the No. 11 Ohio State Buckeyes (3-1, 1-0 B1G) resume conference play with eight league games to go. Ah, the Big Ten. A bastion of tradition, trophies, and matchups that have been passed down from one generation to another, the Big Ten has stood the test of time offering quality matchups as far as the eye can se- oh dammit it’s Rutgers (1-3, 0-1).

Ohio State leads the all-time series with Rutgers 3-0. They have played three times since the Scarlet Knights joined the conference in 2014, and Ohio State has outscored The Pride of New Jersey a cumulative 163-24. Rutgers is disgraceful 4-22 since joining the conference. Their head coach, Chris Ash, worked as an assistant coach under Urban Meyer before taking the Rutgers job before the 2016 season.

Rutgers is having a tough season. The Scarlet Knights opened the campaign with a 30-14 home loss to No. 8 Washington. The Knights looked decent in the opener, but quickly lost all their momentum in an embarrassing 16-13 loss to Eastern Michigan. The Eagles had never beaten a Big Ten opponent before and some might argue that they still haven’t. Rutgers steamrolled FCS Morgan State in Week 3 and last week fell to Nebraska in Lincoln. Adding injury to insult the school reported earlier this week that star cornerback Blessuan Austin tore his knee in the loss and will not play again this season.

Redshirt senior quarterback Kyle Bolin has completed 67-of-117 passes for 642 yards, three touchdowns, and six interceptions. His 2:1 turnover to touchdown ratio speaks volumes to Rutgers’ struggles. Senior Gus Edwards has toted the rock 62 times for 259 yards and two touchdowns. Bolin’s favorite target is Jerome Washington. The redshirt sophomore tight end has pulled in fifteen receptions for 135 yards and a TD. Junior defensive back Kiy Hester leads the team with two picks, one of which was returned for a score against Nebraska.

Ohio State barely broke a sweat dispatching UNLV last weekend. The Bucks set a schools record with 474 passing yards from JT Barrett, Dwayne Haskins, and Joe Burrow. Five of Barrett’s twelve completions (42%) were touchdowns. The most remarkable part of the performance might be that seven (7!) different receivers hauled in a touchdown pass. The receiving corps figured to be a question mark this season, especially after Curtis Samuel declared for the NFL Draft a year early. A pecking order is starting to emerge with redshirt junior Parris Campbell leading the way – 18 receptions, 322 yards, two touchdowns. His gamebreaking speed makes him a weapon in the open field. Redshirt sophomore K.J. Hill trails him with 18 receptions, 177 yards, and a score. Redshirt junior Terry McLaurin has twelve catches for 126 yards and two touchdowns. Junior C.J. Saunders missed the first two games, but made up for it with six catches, 102 yards, and a TD against UNLV. The receivers remain young with no clear Devin Smith-esque deep threat (yet), but each got a turn to shine against the Rebels which bodes well for their confidence moving forward.

Rutgers knows what is coming on Saturday. More than likely for the fourth consecutive year the Buckeyes will throttle the Knights in prime time with little regard for their host’s feelings. Despite the annual meetings, Rutgers still feels like an interloper to me. Like a little kid who puts on his father’s shoes and claims to go to work, RU feels like a mid-major school putting on its Big Ten Pants and pretending it’s good at football. The road to respect starts with defeating a ranked opponent, something the school hasn’t done since knocking off No. 24 South Florida in 2009 while a member of the now defunct Big East. If Rutgers wants to be taken seriously as a football force in the Big Ten they will need to find a way to knock off a ranked conference foe. Sadly for them, their moment will not arrive against the Buckeyes this weekend.