Ohio State vs. Rutgers Preview

A week before Rutgers coach Kyle Flood returned from a suspension for violating university policy by contacting a professor without using an academic support staffer as an intermediary, the Scarlet Knights had a comeback come up short against Michigan State. That rally ended with a 31-24 loss after Rutgers infamously spiked the ball on fourth down.

Against Indiana, it was an entirely different story. Rutgers scored the game’s final 28 points, including a 26-yard field goal as time expired to beat Indiana 55-52.

Those two weeks might be a perfect summary of the Scarlet Knights season, because all year long the team has demonstrated a flair for the dramatic.

On the field, up-and-down performances have led to a 3-3 record. Off it? There have been arrests, suspensions, and Flood’s e-mail scandal.

Not even their starting quarterback has been immune. Sophomore Chris Laviano was kept out of the first half of the season opener versus Norfolk State after he used a fake ID to get into a bar.

Since then, the 6’3″, pro-style signal caller has completed nearly 70 percent of his passes, while throwing 12 touchdowns to only 6 interceptions.

Nine of those touchdown passes have gone to receiver Leonte Carroo. That shouldn’t be a surprise. Over the course of his career, 28 of 104 or roughly one in four of his catches have resulted in scores. On top of that, he’s averaging 22.5 yards/reception in 2015. He’s the team’s leading receiver in both yards and catches, even though he’s missed 11 quarters due to suspensions and injury.

And speaking of injury…

Carroo vows he will play against Ohio State, which is good for the Scarlet Knights, as he is probably their most talented player,

But it might be the run game that is most crucial to the team’s success.

In their three wins, Rutgers is averaging 271 yards on the ground. In their three losses, just 127 yards. Throwing the ball to try to erase a deficit offers only a partial explanation for a discrepancy that large. Also consider that since 2011, Rutgers is 27-6 in games where they run the ball 35 times or more.

There are three players who already have at least 48 carries for the Knights. starter Paul James (48 carries, 285 yards), Josh Hicks (78 carries, 420 yards), and Robert Martin (41 carries, 437 yards) have all contributed to making them the 32nd ranked rushing attack in the country. On a related note, Rutgers is ranked 20th in time of possession.

The offensive line is coached by a former Ohio State graduate assistant. Mitch Browning was in Columbus in 1982.

Meanwhile, opposing teams have found it tough to run against Rutgers. They’re only giving up an average of 126 yards/game on the ground.

Linebacker Steve Longa has had a big hand in this, and is second in the nation with 45 solo tackles. Fellow linebacker Quentin Gause paces the team when it comes to tackles for loss with 5.

Teams have thus opted to pass, and the Scarlet Knights consequently have the 124th ranked passing defense in the country. Although, Anthony Cioffi does already have three interceptions.

Rutgers is a somewhat slow starting team. They’ve been outscored in the first quarters of games this year by a combined total of 31-to-21. Saturday’s game against OSU starts at 8 p.m. on 97.1 The Fan.

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The Sincerest Form of Flattery

So you probably heard about Ohio State’s football players joining the dance team for the halftime performance at the Schottenstein Center. It was one of the few highlights of the Buckeyes 72-48 loss to Wisconsin in men’s basketball.

But oh nos! Controversy.

OSU wasn’t the first Big Ten team to break out their moves.

It may have actually started with Rutgers, but for the life of me, I can find no video evidence.

There is, however, evidence of Iowa’s football players busting loose a little over a week later. Their dance is very…Iowa-ish.

Ohio State Depth Chart: Rutgers

This is getting pretty boring, and that’s probably a good thing. In any case, here’s the latest Ohio State depth chart

What will Rutgers lineup look like? Here’s their offense:

Offense

While on the other side of the ball:

Defense

As usual, you can compare the Buckeyes most recent two-deep to their that from last game.

Scarlet and Grey vs. Scarlet Knights

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer previews Saturday’s game against Rutgers. Offensive coordinator Tom Herman talks about how their game plan would be different if Braxton Miller was still their quarterback. And co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash explains why the defense does what they do.



Get to Know: Rutgers

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.