After three straight non-conference home games where Ohio State played top-down but showed signs of promise, Big Ten competition resumes this weekend in Piscataway, New Jersey, against Rutgers.
The Buckeyes (3-1, 1-0 Big Ten) escaped the Top 10 AP for the first time in the Ryan Day era, dropping just one spot to No.11, despite a convincing 59-7 win on Akron in first grade. quarterback Kyle McCord got the start and red jersey rookie Jack Miller III took over in the third quarter.
Day said he noticed midway through Tuesday’s practice that red-shirted first-year quarterback CJ Stroud looked set to return after winning last week’s game against Akron.
“I thought CJ had a good work week so I can’t wait to get him back on the court this week,” Day said. “I think walking away was also a good thing. I think it allowed him to heal and rest on his shoulder, but also to have a little different perspective. Hope this pays off.
Stroud’s comeback will come against the Scarlet Knights (3-1, 0-1 Big Ten) during what may arguably be the best version of their team the Buckeyes have seen. Nonetheless, Ohio State has a perfect 7-0 record, with three of those wins at SHI Stadium.
Rutgers maintains his opponents at 262.8 yards per game, a number that ranks 11th in the entire NCAA. The Buckeyes are averaging 559.2 total yards on offense, the second-tallest in the country, so a clash between dominant forces on both sides of the ball is to be expected.
The Scarlet Knights also rank fourth nationally in revenue margin, with seven more takeaways than they allowed. First-year defensive back Max Melton leads the team with two interceptions and four breakouts, while five different players forced fumbles.
Rutgers’ offense has lagged behind its conference counterparts, ranking ninth in assists and 10th in rushing, respectively. Senior quarterback Noah Vedral, whom Day called “brave,” averages 188.8 passing yards per game, while senior wide receiver Bo Melton is averaging 63 yards per game.
“I think this week we just need to focus on ourselves,” sophomore safety Ronnie Hickman said. “They’re definitely going to throw different things at you. With us being young and maybe not having the experience, at the end of the day we were taught rules and if we follow those rules we will be good.
Hickman is leading a Buckeyes defense that put down Akron’s offense a week ago, especially after landing his second interception at the top of the team he ran for a touchdown.
Ohio State registered nine sacks against the Zips to move up to third on the Big Ten teams despite just four to three games. Graduate defensive tackle Haskell Garrett had three sacks on his own, but first-year defensive tackle Tyleik Williams forced a pair to tie first for the team lead.
“I don’t think anyone really understands how young this team is,” said Garrett. “The teams before were experienced and played. It is a rapidly evolving team. We are becoming this great team.
It took the first set for the Ohio State offense to click, but when it did, the Buckeyes’ roll couldn’t be slowed down. They have scored touchdowns on four consecutive orders and recorded at least 201 yards in the air and on the ground for the second time this season.
The Buckeyes scored five rushing touchdowns against Akron to set a new season high after hitting rock three times against Tulsa the week before. Four different running backs won races and advanced at least 35 meters each, led by freshman TreVeyon Henderson with two scores and Master Teague III graduate with as many.
“One thing about our room is that none of the running backs hate another running back,” said Henderson. “We are all working. We are all proud of each other. We always support each other and catch up with each other. “
Last season, the Scarlet Knights caught the state of Ohio off guard with a range of creative trick plays and patterns. Whether it’s a bait special-team setup or a series of transfers, Rutgers head coach – and former Buckeyes defensive coordinator – Greg Schiano is still expected to shoot from all directions after a tight 20-13 loss to Michigan in Week 4.
The Scarlet Knights dominated Ohio State 24-14 in the second half when they met last season. They have scored at least 45 points in two of their wins and have allowed just 54 points all season – the third under for the Big Ten.
“It’s not the Rutgers he used to be,” Garrett said. “It’s a great Rutgers football team. We have a challenge ahead of us.”
The Buckeyes and Scarlet Knights will debut at 3:30 p.m. on Big Ten Network.