Rutgers Scarlet Knights (2-2 SU, 2-2 ATS) vs. Ohio State Buckeyes (3-0 SU, 3-0 ATS)
College Football Week 5
Date/Time: Saturday, October 1, 2016 12PM ET
Where: Ohio Stadium
TV: Big Ten Network
by Evergreen, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: RUTG +38/OSU -38
Over/Under Total: 59
If you believe that it will take an undefeated record to get into and eventually win the college football playoff, then every game is a big one, regardless of opponent. The Ohio State Buckeyes have goals that include winning a national championship so they are in a must-win situation this week as the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers come to Columbus. Ohio State is sitting pretty as the No. 2 ranked team in all the land but style points remain key in a game where the presumptive winner is a heavy favorite. There is a lot of sideline familiarity in this one as former OSU defensive coordinator Chris Ash squares off with Urban Meyer who now has longtime Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano as part of his staff. I doubt that will matter much to the guys playing the game Saturday but there might be a play or two ran simply to throw off the opposition.
It is no surprise to see Ohio State as big favorites in The Shoe but Rutgers is getting the FCS treatment here as 38 point underdogs. The online betting sites have a little disagreement through the early week action so shop around as 37 and 38.5 point lines can be found. The big reason why Rutgers’ chances appear so limited is that they are without their do-it-all wide receiver Janarion Grant. Before going down to an ankle injury last week, Grant led the team in receiving, had three rushing scores and handled punt and kickoff return duties. The Knights are just 4-12 in conference since joining the Big Ten and are 1-5 against the spread in their last six conference games while OSU enters on a five game ATS win streak.
OSU has squashed Rutgers in their two previous tilts, 56-17 in 2014 and 49-7 last year. The Buckeyes were pitching a shutout in Piscataway last season until Rutgers got a touchdown with just 13 seconds left to preserve a little dignity. The Knights were only able to muster 293 total yards while the Bucks tallied 534 total, including 287 yards on the ground. That theme might continue as the Ohio State enters the week averaging 306 rushing yards per game with Rutgers allowing an 88th ranked 181 yards on the ground.
There is almost no way to overstate the loss of Grant for Rutgers. It was evident that the Rutgers defense was able to match up well with Iowa last week but the offense could not answer the bell after Grant went out and Rutgers fell 14-7. Chris Laviano provides senior leadership under center but the cupboard is pretty bare for the Knights in the skill department. Jawuan Harris and Andre Patton have snagged five combined touchdown passes but neither receiver has made it to double digit receptions through four games. The running game has been productive behind Robert Martin and his 6.2 yards per carry but Ohio State is a top-20 run-stopping team and will undoubtedly stack the box and make Rutgers throw.
Ohio State has cruised through three weeks, most recently dropping Oklahoma by a 45-24 score two weeks ago. That stands as one of the more impressive wins for an upper-tier team with OSU showing dominance on both sides of the ball. The Buckeyes are top-10 in total yards gained, rushing yards per game and average 56.7 points per contest. Chris Ash is a defensive guru and has Rutgers playing some improved defense in just his first year as head coach but this is a much taller task than the Knights have faced against the likes of Howard, New Mexico and Iowa. The Rutgers D is top-45 in total and passing yards allowed but they haven’t been able to stop the run consistently and that has let opponents average 26 points per game.
J.T. Barrett has flourished as the unquestioned starter, throwing for ten touchdowns and just one interception while rushing for 159 yards and three scores. Mike Weber and Curtis Samuel are both averaging over 6.5 yards per carry with Samuel a big part of the passing game, leading the team in receptions (16) and yards (259). Noah Brown got going in a big way against Oklahoma, catching a school-record four touchdown passes against the Sooners. The names are different in Columbus but the top-notch production has stayed consistent.
I get leery of massive spreads in league games but Rutgers has only been part of the Big Ten for two years so the familiarity has not reached the levels you’d normally expect. Rutgers is so limited on offense without Grant and no amount of system knowledge on Ash’s part is going to make up for that. Maybe Urban takes it easy on his former assistant, that might the only way to prevent another rout. Tim Beckman found out the hard way what it is like to face Meyer after taking over the Illinois program. Ohio State won by an average margin of 32 points in the first three meetings against Beckman. Good luck, Chris Ash. Ohio State is coming off a big game so you might think they are looking past a lesser opponent but they are also coming off a bye week. Ohio State rolls 51-7.
Evergreen’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Ohio State
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