Every road game in the Big Ten has the potential for a loss, even games in New Jersey. Granted, it would take a lot, but stranger things have probably happened.
Ohio State visits Rutgers in a 7:30 pm kick Saturday night, and the Buckeyes couldn’t have better hosts. In their 13 previous home conference games, only twice has Rutgers sent the visitors away with a loss. One of those visitors was Michigan in 2014, if you can believe it.
I don’t expect the Buckeyes to get upset in this one, but that doesn’t mean this game isn’t worth watching. In fact, there’s plenty of things that I am going to be watching out for, and you should too.
1. More Mike Weber.
It has been a long time coming for Mike Weber, but it sounds like he might finally be good to go. And by “good to go”, I am assuming we’re talking about 7-12 carries. I am still waiting to see Weber and J.K. Dobbins in the backfield together. It would be one way to get Weber some snaps without giving him carries. He can get his football legs back and maybe get some pass blocking work in. I think we all want to see more of what we saw from him against Oklahoma. He should be fresh, having sat out last week. If his hamstring is truly good to go — and if Urban Meyer really believes Rutgers’ defense is legit — then we should see Weber as a real part of the offense this week.
2. Mirror images.
The Buckeyes are still employing Chris Ash’s defense, though Greg Schiano has added his own tweaks. Chris Ash is still employing Chris Ash’s defense at Rutgers as well. He also has added some tweaks — like more 3-4 alignments. What the Buckeyes will find familiar, however, is the coverage that the Scarlet Knights will employ in the secondary, because it is the same coverage that Ohio State sees every day in practice. The Buckeyes haven’t seen much man coverage this season, but they are expecting that to change this weekend. There is one major concern with the loss of cornerback Blessaun Austin, who tore his ACL. He was Rutgers’ best defensive back. Will his absence cause Ash to reconsider the plan of attack? If Rutgers does go with man coverage, then expect the passing game to hit the kind of shots that we heard about every day in spring and fall camp.
3. Defensive line domination.
Rutgers isn’t an offense that is necessarily looking to get rid of the ball quickly out of the shotgun, or screen a team to death. They will do many different things, which plays right into the hands of a defensive line that wants an offense to do as many time-consuming things as they can with the football. Rutgers will likely play two quarterbacks in this one — a passer in Kyle Bolin and a runner in true freshman Johnathan Lewis. Neither player is really equipped for what is coming for them Saturday night. The Buckeyes will need to make sure they’re aware of who is in the game so that they don’t lose contain on Lewis. If they can keep contain, however, then it should be a very long day for both of the Rutgers signal callers.
4. More linebackers in the mix?
Chris Worley will play, but he’s not 100%. We know Tuf Borland will play. Urban Meyer has said he’d like to see freshmen Pete Werner and Baron Browning get some snaps. Dante Booker and Malik Harrison are rotating as much as the cornerbacks. Jerome Baker isn’t looking over his shoulder, but he was really talking up Justin Hilliard this week. And Hilliard is behind Keandre Jones, who had some nice moments against UNLV last week. This is a game the Ohio State coaches know they are going to win. They have prepared very hard to get that win. It is also a great opportunity to get some young players some snaps on the road in a night game against a conference opponent.
5. Is Marcus Baugh getting pushed?
It’s interesting, after just four games as a tight end, we have seen exactly what Rashod Berry is capable of. Having seen Marcus Baugh make plays in practice a couple of years ago, I have an understanding of what he is capable of as well. We have only seen that in small glimpses in actual games, however. Baugh had a rough offseason with shoulder surgery, so there has been plenty of reasons for a slow start for him this season. After seeing “Roughshod” Berry in action last week, it might be time for Baugh to pick things up a notch or four.