Ohio State Preview
Sep 29, 2016
Rutgers (2-2, 0-1 Big Ten) travels to Columbus, Ohio this week to take on No. 2 Ohio State (noon, Big Ten Network). The Scarlet Knights are coming off a tough 14-7 loss to Iowa in the conference season opener while Ohio State (3-0, 0-0) is off to a fantastic start to the year. It’s a daunting task for Rutgers, heading into the belly of the beast, but that’s why they play the games, right? So, let’s take a look at five burning questions entering the Rutgers-Ohio State game.
Who is going to replace Janarion Grant?
Grant, the do-all senior, is out for the season. There is obviously no one player who can duplicate what Grant brings to the table, and Rutgers will rely on several players to replace his 163.8 all-purpose yards per game. Freshman Jawuan Harris is coming along quickly as a receiver and kick returner, and John Tsimis is expected to have an increased role in the passing game. Will Rutgers begin to show more schemes for punt blocks now that one of the most electric returners in the nation is out?
How will Rutgers react to Ohio State’s defense?
Last year, Ohio State stifled Rutgers’ offense, allowing just 293 yards (104 rushing) in a 49-7 rout. This year the Buckeyes boast the ninth-ranked defense in FBS, yielding 278.3 yards per game. It’s going to be tough to run on this team especially, but look for Rutgers to try to exploit this matchup if it wants to have a chance. Running back Robert Martin leads the Big Ten with 119.3 yards rushing per game.
Is there an answer for OSU quarterback J.T. Barret?
A junior who finally has the offense to himself, Barrett has seized on his opportunity this year and has completed 67.1 percent of his passes for 10 touchdowns and one interception. He is spreading the ball around and is running the OSU offense efficiently (545.3 yards per game; 56.7 points per game). One of RU’s more important players, hybrid defensive end Quanzell Lambert, is now out for the season, adding insult to an already banged-up Rutgers defense.
Will Rutgers QB Chris Laviano remain the entire game?
RU’s junior signal caller has taken his lumps in the past, and he has been erratic to date this year (52.2 yards passing, five TDs and two interceptions). Freshman Tylin Oden replaced Laviano for a couple of series in the Iowa game, and Zach Allen spelled Laviano in the New Mexico tilt. Gio Rescigno also has a series under his belt as Rutgers’ QB this year. If Laviano falters at the Horseshoe this week, will Rutgers coaches pull him or leave him in for improvement’s sake?
Can Rutgers win this contest?
Of course there’s a chance Rutgers can come out of Columbus with a victory. The Scarlet Knights realistically should have beat a preseason Big Ten West favorite (Iowa) last week, and they’ve proved the ability to hang with the conference’s best teams in the past (Remember that 31-24 near-miss against Michigan State last year?). It will take a perfect effort from RU’s offensive and defensive lines, and Laviano will need to produce the best game of his career. Rutgers has yet to win all three phases of a game in 2016, but this team is showing improvement each week.