This Ohio State football team has been tough to figure out this year. It is not a shock that they are sitting 3-1 at this point of the year even though many had hoped the Buckeyes would have made it through the first month unscathed.
The Buckeyes have dominated the opponents that they should but looked pretty bad against a team that was evenly matched with them in week two. The Ohio State coaches have gone back to the drawing board and the team has shown improvement from week-to-week as they move toward a return to Big Ten play and the tough part of the season.
This week does not count as a tough part of the season, no offense to Rutgers, but it is just true. The Scarlet Knights have not had much success since joining the Big Ten and this year just appears to be more of the same after an inspired start against Washington that resulted in a loss.
We are taking a look at our expectations for the upcoming game against the Scarlet Knights and maybe more of a reach goal in terms of an exaggeration.
Kevin Noon - Keep them under 50
Rutgers has not had much success running against any team not named Morgan State. Rutgers is not playing Morgan State this week and because of that, I don't expect them to have much success running the ball. The Buckeyes have had teams celebrate a little more rushing success than usual this year but facing Army West Point and to a lesser degree Oklahoma, will do that. I am expecting the run defense to come up big in this game and between just straight up run-stopping and sack yardage, and keep the net rushing total at 50 yards or less.
Keeping a team below 50 yards may be a low goal to set, the Buckeyes held Indiana to 17 yards in the season opener. But I have become a little too bold in my expectations and need a bit of a slam dunk to get back in the plus column.
Colin Gay - Finally, the two-back tandem actually works
A 1,000 yard rusher just a season ago, Mike Weber has been viewed as more of an afterthought with the breakout season freshman sensation J.K. Dobbins is having. Now, with Weber cleared to play after recovering from a hamstring injury from the offseason, fans are waiting to see what a balanced attack may look like.
Rutgers would be the team to try a balanced rushing attack against. Despite being relatively decent at rush defense statistically, the Scarlet Knights gave up 197 rushing yards and a touchdown to Nebraska last weekend on 47 carries.
Now, it is unlikely that Ohio State will run the ball as much as Nebraska did last weekend. However, it will be interesting to see if the offensive game plan actually is for these backs to split some carries.
This may not be a huge prediction, but Dobbins will get his usual workload while Weber gets more carries than he has this entire season combined. Seven carries would give the Buckeyes a good idea of what Weber will bring to the table in 2017.
Nick McWilliams - Bolin's nightmare
Kyle Bolin has not been a productive quarterback for Rutgers this year.
The last time Ohio state rolled into Piscataway, New Jersey, the Buckeyes allowed 100 first half passing yards to the starting quarterback before smothering him for just 17 in the second half. That game is long in the past, but the way Bolin has been throwing the ball as of late, it will be more of the same.
Competing against one of the most vaunted defensive lines in the country, and a secondary hungry to get defensive issues solved quickly, Bolin will have a night he wishes he could forget.
Bolin has thrown six picks this year, and is fresh off an astoundingly bad performance against a Nebraksa defense that is allowing 258.5 yards through the air per game and gives up a 129.2 passing rating to opposing quarterbacks. Against an Ohio State defense that has put up similar numbers, so one can assume this one will not be pretty.
It's a safe bet to assume Bolin completes only about 55 percent of his passes, for right around 160 yards to the Buckeyes. Oh, and don't forget about the two picks he's also almost bound to throw.
A day to forget, but will always keep him up at night is in store for the senior quarterback.
Kevin Noon - 200 yards. Someone? Anyone?
It has been more than 13 years since an Ohio State wide receiver has had 200 or more yards receiving (Santonio Holmes v. Marshall - 9/04) in a game. 200 yards is a lot of yards but it has to happen at some point, does it not? With Ohio State's growing confidence in the passing game, the absence of Rutgers' best cornerback and Rutgers playing press-man against the Ohio State receivers, could there be a chance that someone like Parris Campbell or K,J. Hill or another wideout could be in line for a big game receiving? Sure, the passes may travel a grand total of 50 yards but 150 yards of YAC would get to the 200 yard mark and this really is not out of the question as Ohio State is coming off of a 474-yard passing day against UNLV. Granted, not all of those yards were focused on one guy but it really only takes a couple of big plays (well, like three 67-yard passes would get it done, but it does not have to be just three) to get there. I'll probably miss but it is going to happen soon against an overmatched team. Why not tonight?
Colin Gay - Bolin will be awful
I'll take what Nick McWilliams said a step further.
The Ohio State pass defense has feasted on Rutgers quarterbacks for the past few years. For the past two seasons, Scarlet Knights quarterback Chris Laviano has thrown under 120 passing yards, averaging under six yards per pass.
Last season was especially bad. In Ohio State's 58-0 shellacking of Rutgers, Laviano threw for only 33 yards, completing only three passes in 12 attempts. The key thing is though that the Buckeye defense did not record any turnovers in that game.
Quarterback Kyle Bolin has shown some signs of life behind center this season. In the first drive against the Cornhuskers, he completed five passes on seven attempts for 62 yards, leading to a Scarlet Knights score.
However, for the rest of the game, Bolin was atrocious. He completed only 45.4 percent of his passes, throwing for 64 yards and two interceptions.
These are the kind of numbers that I expect out of Bolin on Saturday night. He will throw for under 100 yards, completing under 50 percent of his passes, throwing at least two interceptions.
Consider this the Ohio State secondary's wake-up call game in Big Ten play.
Nick McWilliams - Parris Campbell makes history
After already picking on Bolin, I'll step to the other side of the field for a bit of a crazy one for the Buckeyes.
Parris Campbell is enjoying a breakout year after having troubles catching passes and making people miss. He's not only producing as a wide receiver, but as a kick returner as well.
Urban Meyer joked that Campbell was "about seven yards away" from breaking a kick return after being tripped up by the last UNLV defender on a return last Saturday. So, why not finally return one in style?
Better yet, make it two.
Rutgers special teams unit is arguably one of their better parts of their team, but Campbell is inching closer and closer to finally breaking away on a return. And this week is the prime week for Campbell to do something no other Buckeye ever has — return two kicks for touchdowns.
The Miracle at the Meadowlands happened not too far from high Point Solutions Stadium, so this could be the second version of that. For Campbell, it could be Retribution at High Point Solutions (Stadium).