Rutgers fans, the week we’ve been patiently awaiting has finally arrived. Rutgers will take on #11 Ohio State at SHI Stadium on Saturday, and for once, Rutgers fans have reason to be hopeful as the Buckeyes come to town. Rutgers has met with Ohio State every year for the past 7 years, losing every game by a wide margin. However, being that Rutgers is having one of their best starts in recent years, and Ohio State is having one of their worst, a Rutgers victory at home does not seem impossible.
Ohio State Quarterback C.J. Stroud is battling a shoulder injury that sidelined him last week against Akron, so it will be interesting to see who starts under center for the Buckeyes. Stroud had a shaky performance two weeks ago, and his replacement last week, Kyle McCord, played very well. Stroud started the season strong against Minnesota and Oregon, throwing for 7 touchdowns and nearly 800 yards in the two games. However, in the Buckeyes 41-20 win over Tulsa, Stroud threw for less than 200 yards with 1 TD and 1 interception, allowing Tulsa to stay within a touchdown into the 4th quarter.
The Knights have had QB struggles of their own, as Noah Vedral didn’t light up the stats sheet yet again versus Michigan. He threw for 156 yards and 1 TD, and added 46 more yards with his feet. However, Vedral’s biggest blunder came on the game’s final drive, as he lost a fumble committing the Scarlet Knights’ first turnover over the season and sealing the loss to Michigan.
However, what fans saw on the other side of the ball in the second half of the game is what provides a glimmer of hope against the Buckeyes. The Rutgers defense was short staffed with DB Max Melton suspended and DT Julius Turner ejected late in the first half for a controversial targeting call. Despite missing these key contributors, the Rutgers defense locked down the Wolverines. They allowed just one completed pass in the entire half, which was good for only 7 yards. Michigan’s rushing game was not much better, as the Wolverines totaled just 2 first downs in the entire 2nd half.
Clearly, last week was a tale of two halves. The first was dominated by Michigan’s offense, and the second was dominated by Rutgers’ defense. If Rutgers can play as well as they did in the second half against Michigan, they will be a legitimate competitor against Ohio State, and frankly any team in the Big Ten. The way they played in the second half proved that they are no longer a cakewalk for future Big Ten opponents, and Ohio State realizes that.
After suffering his first regular season loss since taking the Buckeyes head coaching job in 2019, Ryan Day will not take any opponent lightly. Ohio State will be prepared for whatever Rutgers has up its sleeve. Based on the way both teams have played to start the season, this game will likely not be won on offense. Whichever defense can get more takeaways will likely come out on top. With DB Patrice Rene fully recovered from an injury, the Knights defense will have what it takes to win that battle.
I’m sticking with the bold predictions, and I’m taking Rutgers in this game by at least 2 possessions. The defense will be solid all game and Ohio State will struggle to put points on the board. The Scarlet Knights will win this game by a score of 28-17, and for the first time since 2012, Rutgers will be a top 25 football team.
Tune in to Big Ten Network at 3:30pm to watch the Rutgers Scarlet Knights take on the #11 Ohio State Buckeyes at SHI Stadium.