PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) — Since Rutgers joined the Big Ten Conference in 2014, their games against perennially ranked Ohio State have been mismatches.
The Buckeyes have won all seven games, scoring no fewer than 49 points in any contest, including last year’s 49-27 win. It’s not surprising No. 11 Ohio State is a big favorite again heading into Saturday afternoon’s game at SHI Stadium.
What’s interesting, though, is that Rutgers (3-1, 0-1) put on a performance against now-No. 14 Michigan last weekend in the Big House that indicated Ohio State (3-1, 1-0) may not totally have its way this time with the Scarlet Knights.
Rutgers dropped a 20-13 decision to the Wolverines on the road in a game in which they posted a second-half shutout and had a chance to tie the contest late.
Scarlet Knights coach Greg Schiano, who served as the Buckeyes’ defensive coordinator under Urban Meyer a couple of years ago, said the game didn’t change the way he felt about his team. He has believed it has been closing the gap on the traditional powers the past two seasons .
“I think the Big Ten is a very tough league and every game is its own entity,” Schiano said earlier this week. “So you can’t say, ‘Well, because you were able to do that in the second half that you’ll be do it against somebody else.’ “
The bottom line is Rutgers has to show up and perform again.
“I think (Schiano) has done a very, very good job these past two years of getting his team ready,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “He does a good job coaching in all three phases. It is a challenge going on the road. You see what he did last year. Last week, they took (Michigan) to the fourth quarter. They played excellent defense in the fourth quarter. He has the guys believing and playing hard.”
Some things to watch in Saturday’s game:
Freshman redshirt C.J. Stroud will be the likely starter for Ohio State after sitting last week against Akron. Stroud started the first three games but has been nursing a sore shoulder, so freshman Kyle McCord got the nod and threw for 319 yards and two touchdowns in the 59-7 win over Akron. Freshman Jack Miller III also got some playing time.
“I think now it’s great to have reps under our belt so that we know what we have,” Day said. “I’ve said from the beginning it’s going to take all three guys to get through the season.”
STOPPING THE PASSING GAME
Ohio State is averaging 337 yards passing and has a top receiving corps with Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave and Jaxon Smith-Njigba. Wilson leads the team with 23 catches for 391 yards and three TDs. Olave has 18 catches for 255 and two TDs, and Smith-Njigba has 16 receptions for 283 and three TDs.
Rutgers suspended starting cornerback Max Melton before the Michigan game because of an arrest following an on-campus paintball incident. Sixth-year senior Patrice Rene, a Virginia transfer who missed the first two games, played for the Scarlet Knights for the first time last week.
“They have good talent on the receiver corps, really well-coached,” Rene said. “But I’m confident in our guys. We have a lot of talent on our end. We’re ready to go out there and compete. We’re not scared of anybody.”
Junior Ohio State center Harry Miller, who hasn’t played yet because of what Day called “some health issues,” will be available for the Rutgers game. Freshman Luke Wypler has started every game in his place. Thayer Munford, the Buckeyes’ best offensive lineman, missed last week’s game with an unspecified injury and his status for this week is to be determined. Four defensive regulars missed last week — linemen Taron Vincent, Tyreke Smith and Javontae Jean-Baptiste, and cornerback Cam Brown. Day hopes a couple of them will play this weekend.
HE SAID IT
Rutgers gained the respect of Michigan and its rabid fans after silencing the big crowd on the road during a scoreless second half.
“They’re going to shock a lot of people this year,” Michigan defensive lineman Donovan Jeter said.
Rutgers got a very pleasant surprise after losing starting right guard Reggie Sutton for the season to a knee injury prepping for Michigan. Freshman Troy Rainey, who didn’t play last year, got his first start and played very well against a tough Wolverine defense.
Rainey, of Bridgeport, Connecticut, is a converted defensive lineman who played offensive line in high school.