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Game Preview: Ohio State Must Fight Complacency Against Rutgers On Homecoming

The Buckeyes have outscored the Scarlet Knights 428-88 in eight meetings since they joined the Big Ten.
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Ohio State’s offense is firing on all cylinders right now, having scored a touchdown on 18 of its last 21 possessions, not including a kneel down to end the 77-21 win over Toledo and a one-play drive before halftime in the 52-21 win over Wisconsin.

That success will likely continue in Saturday’s Homecoming matchup with Rutgers (3:30 p.m. on BTN), as the Buckeyes are nearly a six-touchdown favorite against the Scarlet Knights. So perhaps the biggest threat this weekend is complacency, something that head coach Ryan Day and his players are fighting back against.

“I think, even when you go up 21-0 in the first quarter, you turn on the film and there’s still stuff on there,” sixth-year senior fullback/tight end Mitch Rossi. “I think that’s something that Coach Day really harps on. Even if you have a great game where you beat a tough Big Ten opponent, you turn on the tape and there’s still things that we can be better at.

“I think every week we take a fresh mentality and we don’t take anybody lightly. We don’t really have an issue being complacent because we want to be the best. We don’t really care about who it is. It’s always about us. Whoever we’re playing, we just want to be the best version of the offense we can be.”

The win over the Badgers served as a test of Ohio State’s toughness and physicality on the defensive side of the ball, meanwhile. The Buckeyes aced that exam, limiting running back Braelon Allen to just 67 yards on 15 carries before giving way to the second-stringers.

The unit also held quarterback Graham Mertz to 94 passing yards and one touchdown with one interception, which turned into seven points just two plays later. All in all, was the perfect example of how far the Buckeyes’ defense has come in four games under coordinator Jim Knowles.

“I thought you could see a lot of guys playing with an edge, and that’s what our expectation is,” Day said. “Now, we’ve got to do it again and find out if this is just something we’ve done in a couple of games or if this is our identity moving forward. I think we’ve shown that we can do it.”

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General Info

Date: Oct. 1, 2022
Where: Ohio Stadium (Columbus, OH)
Expected Weather: 68 degrees, mostly cloudy 
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET

Current Betting Numbers

Spread: Ohio State (-39.5)
O/U Total: 58
Betting: Check out the new SISportsbook!

How to Watch/Listen

Television: BTN
Streaming: fuboTV (get a 7-day free trial)
Announcers: Brandon Gaudin (play-by-play), Joshua Perry (analyst) and Rick Pizzo (sideline)

Local Radio: Ohio State Sports Network from Learfield IMG College
Flagship: WBNS 97.1 The Fan
Announcers: Paul Keels (play-by-play), Jim Lachey (analyst), Matt Andrews (sideline reporter), Skip Mosic (pregame/halftime/postgame host and producer)

Series History

Ohio State leads Rutgers, 8-0
* OSU record at home: 4-0

LAST TIME THEY MET
2021: Ohio State 52, Rutgers 13

Coaching Matchup

* Ryan Day
* At Ohio State: 4th Season, Record: 38-4
* Overall: Same

* Greg Schiano
* At Rutgers: 14th Season (two stints), Record: 79-82
* Overall: Same

Ohio State Capsule

Ohio State sophomore cornerback Denzel Burke was a late scratch ahead of the win over Wisconsin, as he took part in pregame warmups with a club on his right hand before watching the game from the sideline. 

He returned to practice this week, though, which means the Buckeyes should have at least one of their starting corners back against Rutgers.

“It was too close from when it occurred to put him in the game,” Day said. “He’s going to be ready to roll this week, and (we’re) excited to see him back on the field.”

It marked the first missed game of Burke’s career, as he started 13 games last fall on his way to being named a freshman All-American, though he’s had his fair share of struggles in the first three weeks of this season.

Whether or not the injury had anything to do with those struggles is unclear, as Day and his staff always decline to discuss such matters. But now he’ll have a new challenge in the form of a protective wrap that he'll have to wear for the next few weeks – if not the rest of the season.

“That may be something that we have to keep an eye on here for the remainder of the season and protect it,” Day said. “But we’ll kind of see how it heals and how it does.”

It wouldn’t be the first time in recent memory that an Ohio State cornerback has played with a protective covering, as Damon Arnette wore a cast on his broken right wrist for most of the 2019 season. It didn’t seem to hinder his play, either, as he went on to be a first-round pick.

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Meanwhile, Day was unable to update the status of fifth-year senior Cameron Brown – the Buckeyes’ other starting cornerback – so redshirt freshman J.K. Johnson will earn his second career start if he can’t go. Freshman Jyaire Brown should see increased playing time after starting against the Badgers, as well.

“Hopefully, we’ll have a little bit more depth again this week," Day said. " But either way, those guys are ready to go and they’re going to see significant time.”

Rutgers Capsule

Rutgers is off to a 3-1 start under head coach Greg Schiano, who built the Scarlet Knights into a perennial bowl team during his first stint from 2001-11, then spent two seasons as the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and three seasons as Ohio State’s defensive coordinator before returning to the program in 2020.

“He’s very, very good in this area of building programs and he’s off to a great start again,” Day said. “He’s an excellent motivator, creates great relationships with his players, he’s very intelligent and can really drive the whole program at a high level. He understands what needs to get done. He’s an excellent leader and a very smart coach.”

Rutgers boasts a defense that allows just 56.6 yards per game, good for second in the country and first among Power Five teams through four games. The Scarlet Knights also rank ninth in the country in total defense (249.5 yards), third-down defense (26.4 percent) and 25th in scoring defense (17.2 points) under first-year coordinator Joe Harasymiak.

“The secondary has become veteran,” Day said. “These guys have played a lot of football and they have some bigger guys up front than in the past. Physically, they’re doing a great job … This is by far the best defense in the three years we’ve played them since Greg’s been there.”

Offensively, quarterback Evan Simon has completed 62 percent of his passes for 566 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions. His favorite target is wide receiver Aron Cruickshank, who has caught 18 passes for 156 yards and two touchdowns.

Cruickshank notably hails from the same high school (Brooklyn’s Erasmus Hall) as Ohio State offensive guard Matthew Jones, as well as former H-Back Curtis Samuel and safety Jahsen Wint.

“They have some weapons on the outside and some speed,” Day said. “They’re creative in terms of what they do on offense. They challenge you in different ways, they try to get you in different formations and stress you out. Every year they’re getting better and better.” 

Major Storylines

  • Saturday’s game wraps up the third five-game homestand in the history of Ohio Stadium, as the Buckeyes went 4-1 in 1999 and 5-0 in 2003.
  • Ohio State has outscored Rutgers 428-88 in eight meetings since the Scarlet Knights joined the Big Ten. The largest margin of victory was 58 points in 2016 and smallest margin of victory was 22 points in 2020.
  • The Buckeyes will commemorate the 100th anniversary of Ohio Stadium this week with the installation of a historical marker near the rotunda, as well as an on-field honor with the family of architect Howard Dwight Smith.
  • Ohio State has won a conference-record 26 straight Big Ten games at home dating back to a 17-14 loss to Michigan State in 2015. The streak began with the aforementioned 58-0 win over Rutgers in 2016, former Buckeyes defensive coordinator Chris Ash’s first season at the helm.
  • Ohio State has five players on its roster who played their high school ball in New Jersey, including fifth-year senior defensive ends Tyler Friday (Don Bosco Prep) and Javontae Jean-Baptiste (Bergen Catholic), redshirt junior safety Ronnie Hickman (DePaul Catholic), junior linebacker Cody Simon (St. Peter’s Prep) and redshirt sophomore center Luke Wypler (St. Joseph Regional).
  • Additionally, sophomore quarterback Kyle McCord is from Mt. Laurel, N.J., but attended Philadelphia’s St. Joseph’s Prep. His father, Derek McCord, played quarterback for the Scarlet Knights from 1988-92.
  • Rutgers, meanwhile, has three Ohioans on its roster in senior long snapper Ed Rogowski (Streetsboro), sophomore wide receiver Don Munnerlyn (Columbus Independence) and freshman offensive lineman Kwabena Asamoah (Pickerington Central).
  • Ohio State is the only team in the country averaging at least 300 passing and at least 200 rushing yards per game. The Buckeyes average 339.0 passing and 219.8 rushing yards per game, which ranked first and third in the Big Ten, respectively.
  • Tight end Cade Stover has 12 catches for 188 yards and two touchdowns. He’s on pace for 36 catches for 564 yards and six touchdowns in 12 games, which would be the most by an Ohio State tight end since Ben Hartsock caught 33 passes for 290 yards and two touchdowns in 2003.
  • The Buckeyes played 13 games that season, while Stover could play anywhere from 12 to 15 games this season, including a potential trip to the Big Ten Championship Game and College Football Playoff.
  • Ohio State has scored 20 or more points in 64 straight games, which is just five games shy of tying the Football Bowl Subdivision record set by Oklahoma from 2016-21. Interestingly, that dates back to a 31-16 loss to the Sooners in 2017.

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