Ninth-ranked Ohio State hopes to continue its offensive resurgence against an improving defense when the Buckeyes visit Rutgers for a Big Ten clash on Saturday afternoon. Ohio State averaged 625 yards while winning its last two games against non-conference opponents and expects a much tougher battle against a Scarlet Knights’ defense that is holding teams to 18.3 points per contest.
“You can see Chris Ash’s fundamentals on it, and also scheme,” Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer said of his former defensive coordinator (2014-15), who is now the Rutgers head coach. “Most improved defense I’ve seen in the country this year.” The Scarlet Knights gave No. 6 Washington and Nebraska all they could handle in losses, but may have their toughest challenge against an Ohio State offense that is led by senior quarterback J.T. Barrett and freshman running back J.K. Dobbins. Barrett has thrown for 966 yards with 10 touchdowns and one interception while Dobbins is averaging 7.5 yards per carry, 130 per game and faces a Rutgers defense that is giving up 118.8 yards per contest with just one touchdown against on the ground. The Scarlet Knights must improve offensively and should get a boost from the return of senior wide receiver Janarion Grant, who missed last week’s 27-17 loss at Nebraska with a concussion.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network. LINE: Ohio State -29.5
OHIO STATE (3-1, 1-0 Big Ten): Barrett completed 37-of-50 passes with seven scoring strikes and zero interceptions in victories over Army (38-7) and UNLV (54-21) the last two weeks and eight different players have caught a touchdown pass for the Buckeyes. Dobbins (520 yards, three TDs) is expected to get help from sophomore running back Mike Weber, who Meyer said is cleared to play after being bothered by a hamstring injury that has limited him to seven carries after he rushed for 1,096 yards last year. Defensive tackle Malik Barrow (knee) was lost for the season in the UNLV contest, but linebacker Chris Worley (foot) is probable for Rutgers after missing last Saturday’s contest.
RUTGERS (1-3, 0-1): The Scarlet Knights are allowing just under 300 yards per game and boast five interceptions as junior linebacker Trevor Morris leads the way with 28 tackles while senior defensive end Darnell Davis has two sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss. Louisville transfer Kyle Bolin has yet to throw for 200 yards in a game this year and the senior owns three touchdown passes as opposed to six interceptions, but having Grant (12 catches, 113 yards, one TD) back should help. Senior running back Gus Edwards has provided 259 yards on the ground (4.2 per carry) and junior tight end Jerome Washington (15 receptions, 135 yards) is Bolin’s top target in the early going.
1. Barrett is 14 shy of 10,000 yards of total offense in his career and needs 201 passing yards to move ahead of Art Schlichter (7,547) for the school record.
2. The Buckeyes have won the first three matchups with Rutgers by a combined score of 163-24 and took the battle in Columbus 58-0 last year.
3. Grant needs 107 all-purpose yards to move past Brian Leonard (4,643) for third on the Scarlet Knights’ all-time list.
PREDICTION: Ohio State 34, Rutgers 13