It’s the Scarlet and Grey against the Scarlet Knights this weekend, the Joey Bosa-led Ohio State defense against quarterback Gary Nova and the Rutgers offense.
In addition to the Bosa-Nova match-up and the inevitable Flood of puns that will result from Saturday’s kick off, what should Buckeye fans expect to see this week?
Rutgers is 5-1, with wins over Washington State, Howard, Navy, Tulane and Michigan, and a loss against Penn State.
Nova threw 5 picks in that 13-10 defeat at the hands of the Nittany Lions. Since then, however, “he has completed 63.5 percent of his passes for 846 yards with seven touchdowns and one interception during a three-game winning streak.”
He’s ranked 31st nationally in passing yards, and his leading target is Leonte Carroo, who has 29 catches for 548 yards (an average of 18.9 yards/reception) and 5 touchdowns. Watch for the Knights to target Carroo on first down, as 51 percent of his catches this year have come on first down plays. Meanwhile, 21 of his 29 catches have resulted in either a Rutgers first down or touchdown.
And the Scarlet Knights are relying even more on the passing game these days, thanks to Paul James’ ACL tear. Even though James has missed the last two games with the knee injury, he still leads the Knights in rushing.
In his absence, Rutgers has only averaged 88 rushing yards a game, 2.9 yards per carry. That’s especially disappointing given what the Knights have up front. They returned all five starting offensive lineman this season, and those players have a combined 153 games under their belt. Plus, the line is only giving up 1.33 sacks a game, which ranks them 26th nationally and third in the Big Ten.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, the team is ranked third nationally when it comes to getting to the opponent’s quarterback. They already have recorded 24 sacks this year.
Like many of Ohio State’s recent opponents, Rutgers has given up yards, although not necessarily points this year. The Scarlet Knights are ranked 70th in total defense (396.7 yards/game) and 42nd in scoring defense (21.7 points/game).
Given the fact that Rutgers has beaten the top-ranked passing offense (Washington State) and second-ranked rushing offense (Navy) this season, those numbers are even more impressive than they might first appear.
However, they aren’t doing this by forcing turnovers. They only have three fumble recoveries and four interceptions thus far.
What they do have is a pair of 6’4″ defensive linemen, David Milewski and Darius Hamilton, who can get into the backfield. Leading the team in tackles is redshirt sophomore linebacker Steve Longa.
Rutgers will present a special teams test, but they don’t present the same challenge as Maryland did, in that their returners aren’t as dangerous, and their kicker Kyle Federico is less of a weapon than Maryland’s Ben Craddock.
But the Knights are the only team in the country to have blocked five kicks this year. In fact, since 2009, Rutgers leads the nation with 39 blocks. They’ve also blocked 2 punts this season.
Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood is 0-4 against ranked teams. Perhaps more importantly, his team’s have tended to fall off later in the year. Although his head-coaching record in the first 6 games of the season is 10-2, his record in the back half of the year (including bowl games) is 5-9.
Ohio State and Rutgers will kick off at 3:30 pm this Saturday on 97.1 The Fan.