COLUMBUS — The challenge for Ohio State has to come internally.
With all due respect to another Big Ten opponent, Rutgers simply can’t compete with the Buckeyes. The matchup on Saturday in New Jersey is going to be ugly, and the two-time defending conference champions can probably win by any score they want.
Ohio State isn’t going to be at full strength with Chase Young serving the end of his two-game suspension and a couple other starters nursing injuries. It knows that it’s a massive favorite against an overmatched opponent, so overcoming complacency could be a test. But the Buckeyes have been adamant every week that it can’t take anything for granted and every game offers a chance to prove they’re the best team in the country.
“At the end of the day you’re going to trust your training,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “When you’re in that moment, you’ll go back to the way you’ve trained, the way you’ve prepared. If you haven’t done that the right way, you won’t execute the way you’re supposed to.
“To our team’s credit, they’ve prepared and executed at a high level in a lot of areas. That’s good. We can’t ever lose focus of that because that’s when you get yourself in trouble. That’s the message this week.”
The Buckeyes have embraced every one so far, and that’s translated to nine consecutive blowout victories. The unanimous expectation from the Lettermen Row crew is that Ohio State will get No. 10 on Saturday, so once again they’re going beyond the score to make five bold predictions about what will transpire in the East Division matchup this weekend.
Austin Ward: Chris Chugunov throws four touchdown passes
Ohio State is barely going to need Justin Fields to play, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to waste an entire afternoon of live reps — especially since backup quarterback Chris Chugunov can still use the experience just in case. He’s not the only guy who can benefit from those snaps, of course, which is why the Buckeyes will let the New Jersey native sling the football around a little bit in his homecoming. Chugunov’s arm has been more impressive than anticipated this season, and his ability to make a variety of throws could also help young receivers like Garrett Wilson and Jameson Williams maximize their reps against the overmatched Scarlet Knights. With Fields expected to rest early, look out for a banner performance from Chugunov.
Jeremy Birmingham: Ohio State will score less than 50 points
I know this sounds like the craziest prediction of the season, but hear me out here, OK? Justin Fields and the Buckeyes will score at will against Rutgers in the first quarter, and probably take a 28-35 point lead into the second. That first quarter will be the only quarter that Fields and the rest of Ohio State’s starters will be on the field. From there, things are going to get sloppy as the Buckeyes turn their focus to getting the heck out of New Jersey and ready for a three-game Big Ten gauntlet that will define this team’s legacy. A win is a win and the majority of the country will have turned the channel off when its 35-0 after one quarter, and that will be enough for the Buckeyes against a tragically outmatched Rutgers squad.
Tim May: Buckeyes set season-high rushing total — again
A week after hitting a bold prediction on the head, let’s go back and let it ride. The forecast that Ohio State was going to top its previous rushing game of the season with a rip through Maryland last week was looking shaky midway through the third quarter. Then after J.K. Dobbins and Master Teague III took a seat in the eventual 73-14 win, Marcus Crowley and Demario McCall took it up a notch in the run-heavy last 20 minutes. Ohio State wound up with 383 yards on 56 carries. This week the Buckeyes (No.3 nationally in rushing with 295.2-yard average) go against the No. 107 defense (198.7) against the rush at Rutgers. Again, Dobbins and Co. will up the rushing bar, perhaps topping 400, especially as the backup offensive line, spurred on by line coach Greg Studrawa this week to play to starting standard, paves the way.
Spencer Holbrook: Ohio State outscores Rutgers yardage total
Will Crall: Zach Harrison will break single-game sack record
Zach Harrison is well ahead of schedule in his development, and he’s going to have an opportunity to break Ohio State’s single game sack record with five sacks against Rutgers. Harrison has improved every game this season under the direction of Larry Johnson. He tallied a sack last week against Maryland and has become more disruptive every week. Harrison will once again see extended playing time with Chase Young out of the lineup for one more week. He may even see more snaps than he did against Maryland because Ohio State can only travel with 74 players, which means most walk-ons and players deep on the depth chart won’t be available to relieve him. It’s been well documented how awful this Rutgers team is. Harrison sees much better competition everyday in practice against Ohio State’s scout team. The combination of a lot of playing time, a historically bad Rutgers team and improved skillset will result in a huge day for Harrison.