COLUMBUS, Ohio (CBSNewYork/AP) — First, Ohio State provided the opposition in Maryland’s first Big Ten home game two weeks ago.
Now the 13th-ranked Buckeyes host Rutgers in its first conference road trip.
“That’s another monumental game right there,” said Scarlet Knights offensive tackle Keith Lumpkin. “It’s a dream to play in that stadium. Some people might find it nerve-wracking or kind of scary. It’s just 100,000 watching me about to kick their team’s butt, so that’s how I see it.”
Another week, another milestone and another bit of extra incentive for an Ohio State opponent.
But the Buckeyes have their own incentives. They’re seeking their 18th consecutive Big Ten win, which would put them just two behind the conference record set by Ohio State from 2005-07.
Can Rutgers pull off the upset? Here’s a look at Saturday’s game from both teams’ perspectives:
THREE-GAME STREAKS: Both the Scarlet Knights (5-1, 1-1 Big Ten) and the Buckeyes (4-1, 1-0) have won their last three.
Ohio State easily beat three overmatched teams, while Rutgers is coming off a victory over another of the conference’s traditional bullies, Michigan.
Funny, but that loss by their archrivals got the Buckeyes’ attention.
“What caught (our players’) eye is what they did last week,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. “To watch people storm the field, it caught my eye. I was watching the end of that thing. Our guys will really prepare for this game, I can tell you that.”
DUELING QBs: The Buckeyes may have the hottest offense in America these days, averaging 56 points, 35 first downs and 623 yards in its recent win streak.
J.T. Barrett, a redshirt freshman who took over when two-time Big Ten player of the year Braxton Miller was lost for the year with a shoulder injury, has thrown 14 TD passes and one interception over that span.
“It’s difficult because he can do so many different things,” Rutgers LB Kevin Snyder said. “He’s a great runner, he can throw the football, he makes great reads it looks like on film and he’s tough to tackle.”
The Scarlet Knights have Gary Nova, who was a turnover machine at times earlier in his career but is now more dependable.
He’s first nationally in yards per completion (17.2) and is fifth in passing efficiency (170.9). The Buckeyes haven’t forgotten his past, however.
“Sometimes he does get a little bit rattled and feels like he has to just throw it up there,” Ohio State CB Eli Apple said of Nova’s propensity for throwing interceptions. “That’s something we’re going to try to capitalize on.”
SACKMASTERS: Rutgers is giving up almost 400 yards a game, but led by freshman DE Kemoko Turay the Scarlet Knights are third in the nation in sacks.
“On first and second down, they’re getting their sacks because their front four is very active, with very quick hands and quick feet,” Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman said. “And then on third down, just a lot of confusion.”
Turay doesn’t play all the time and still is averaging a sack a game, 14th best in the country.
RUSHING TO JUDGMENT: Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott has run for 321 yards over the past two games, including a career-best 182 against Cincinnati. Elliott’s effectiveness helps take some of the heat off of Barrett.
Rutgers is averaging 159.2 rushing yards per game, up almost 30 yards over a year ago. So the Buckeyes, similarly, can’t sell out and just bull rush Nova.
THE HORSESHOE: This should be the largest crowd ever to see Rutgers, which is in its 145th season, play. The Buckeyes, of course, are used to playing before six-digit crowds, particularly at Ohio Stadium.
“It’s going to be loud, so communication is huge and we’ll simulate it in practice,” Nova said. “But I’ve never played in front of 100,000 people. It’s exciting.”