Although their most recent outcomes were very different, No. 11 Ohio State and Rutgers enter their game in New Jersey on Saturday with confidence.
The Buckeyes (3-1, 1-0 Big Ten) have not lived up to their preseason hype, especially in a 35-28 home loss to Oregon on Sept. 11. However, they regained some swagger Saturday by drilling overmatched Akron 59-7 in an impressive debut by freshman No. 2 quarterback Kyle McCord.
“For us, certainly there’s been a little bit of a recalibration,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said Tuesday.
Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said he doesn’t view last week’s 20-13 loss at No. 14 Michigan as a moral victory, but hopes the lessons learned will gird the Scarlet Knights (3-1, 0-1) for the challenge of upsetting the Buckeyes.
“You’re playing in what I think is the elite conference in college football, right?” said Schiano, who was head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2012-13, and then spent the 2016-2018 seasons as Ohio State defensive coordinator.
“I liken it much to the NFL, my time there. Any team can beat any other team in this league, on any given Saturday.”
That will be a tall order for the Scarlet Knights, who are 0-7 vs. the Buckeyes since joining the Big Ten in 2014. Ohio State has scored at least 49 points in each of those games, including last season in an empty Ohio Stadium when the 49-27 final was the closest margin in the series.
“Coach Schiano, being around him when he was here, he really inspires,” Ohio State defensive end Haskell Garrett said. “This isn’t the Rutgers it used to be. It’s a great football team.”
The Scarlet Knights are seventh nationally in scoring defense (13.5) and 11th in total defense (262.8). Michigan entered the Rutgers game averaging 350 yards on the ground but gained 112, even less than the 115 yards a game the Scarlet Knights defense is allowing this season.
Ohio State starting quarterback C.J. Stroud did not play Saturday because of a sore shoulder. McCord responded with 319 yards and two touchdown passes.
Day said Tuesday that Stroud would start if healthy.
“I’m optimistic that coming off of Sunday’s practice and with the feedback I’ve got from the medical staff and the trainers that we’re ready to move forward,” the coach said.
The Buckeyes must put aside some internal turmoil. First, following the Oregon game, Day took defensive play-calling duties away from coordinator Kerry Coombs and gave them to secondary coach Matt Barnes.
A week ago, linebacker Dallas Gant entered the transfer portal. During the Akron game, linebacker K’Vaughan Pope got into a sideline argument with the coaches, was sent to the locker then tweeted a derogatory remark about Ohio State. He was dismissed from the team Sunday and entered the transfer portal on Monday.
“There has to be consequences for actions,” Day said.”Our focus now is on Rutgers.”
Schiano doesn’t see his time at Ohio State as an advantage for Rutgers, insofar as it was on Urban Meyer’s staff before Day became the Buckeyes coach.
“It’s been three years now,” he said. “So, I’m kind of removed. A lot of the players that are playing, I still have knowledge of. But they’ve changed. Like, we all change, right?
“We played them last year, though. So, I think that’s as good a tool to use for evaluation as anything is.”
–Field Level Media