Ohio State crushed Rutgers yesterday, 52-13. The blowout final score doesn’t really tell the story of how one-sided the game actually was. The Buckeyes scored at will in the first half, completely shut down the Rutgers offense except for one breakdown play, and went into halftime ahead 45-6. After halftime the Buckeyes scored another TD, then put in the back-ups and got pretty much everyone on the roster into the game, which prevented a really ugly score but has the positive effect of allowing the team to build depth, give your athletes game experience on the road, and protecting your first-string players from injury.
The Buckeyes offense definitely looked sharp–especially quarterback C.J. Stroud–and the defense handed the Scarlet Knights a lot of three and outs in the first half that allowed the offense to get back on the field and rack up another score. Still, the opponent was Rutgers, a team the Buckeyes have routinely pulverized. Buckeye Nation always feels good about the team after the Rutgers game, because Ohio State is 8-0 all-time against the Scarlet Knights and the closest win was last year, when Ohio State won by 22 points. Yesterday’s 52-13 score not even the most lopsided result in the series; that happened in 2016 when the Buckeyes laid a 58-0 whipping on the Knights.
So, how do you assess a big win against Rutgers? Do you focus on the statistics, or discount them because they were achieved against Rutgers, and the Buckeyes always seem to play well against that New Jersey squad? That’s the big question for head coach Ryan Day and his staff. As for me, I think there are some definite positives to take away from yesterday’s game, and I’m not going to discount them entirely due to the Rutgers factor. Here are some of key points, in my view:
- It’s a road win in the Big Ten against a team that just gave Michigan a tough game in the Big House. I don’t think the Scarlet Knights are chopped liver, and I suspect they will surprise some other teams this year. But the Buckeyes absolutely overwhelmed them. I think that’s a good sign.
- The Buckeyes defense seemed to be well prepared and in position–something that didn’t seem to be the case in the games earlier this year. Ohio State has a new defensive signal-caller, and yesterday’s game was an indication that he’s doing a good job with the scheme and the pregame preparation.
- Ohio State’s defense is going to be the big concern this year, and in my view the key is getting the players in position to make plays and avoiding the breakdowns that allowed Oregon and Tulsa players to be running free without a Buckeye in the vicinity. Those egregious breakdowns didn’t happen yesterday. You could argue that we’re talking about Rutgers, but the breakdowns happened a lot against Tulsa, too. If the right scheme is used, I trust the Ohio State players to make tackles, break up passes, and harass the quarterback, as they did yesterday.
- C.J. Stroud was terrific, going 17 for 23 for 330 yards and five touchdowns. He also ran the ball, and looked a lot more confident in his decision-making. He was accurate and decisive, which are key attributes for the quarterback in an Ohio State offense that is loaded with talent. The modern college game, like the modern pro game, is focused on the quarterback, and I think the Buckeyes have another good one in C.J.
- A college football season is a process, because personnel are always shifting and new players go through growing pains. The whole Ohio State team looked more settled and comfortable yesterday; the reps and game experience are having an impact. We’ll know more about how that process is going after next week when the Buckeyes take on Maryland–a team that has given Ohio State fits in recent years.