Ohio State Buckeyes (7-0 SU, 2-5 ATS) vs. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (3-3 SU, 3-3 ATS)
NCAA Week 8
Date/Time: October 24/8pm ET
Where: High Points Solutions Stadium
by Evergreen, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: OSU -21/RUTG +21
The march to the College Football Playoff is ramping up as we move further into the NCAA schedule and that makes the opportunity for teams to play spoilers all the more intriguing. Ohio State heads to New Jersey this weekend to take on Rutgers and the Scarlet Knights will surely have their best effort on tap in hopes of dethroning the Buckeyes. Even if Rutgers falls short of an outright upset, they can still make life miserable for OSU by pushing them to the limit and making the Buckeyes look a little less appealing to the selection committee. Ohio State has had to survive some scrapes with lesser teams to stay undefeated and Urban Meyer now turns to J.T. Barrett at quarterback in hopes of putting together some more consistent performances.
Ohio State is an obvious heavy favorite with the opening line of -20 being pushed to -21 pretty quickly in the early betting. That additional point feels problematic for a Buckeye team that struggled to score points against the likes of Northern Illinois and had a tough time keeping a pesky Indiana team down. The No. 1 ranked program in the NCAA is going to see plenty of three score lines throughout the season but they havent cruised to covers as evidenced by their 2-5 ATS record and now face a Rutgers squad that is fresh off hanging 55 on the Hoosiers. Ohio State is just 1-5 against the spread in their last six overall while Rutgers is 7-3 ATS in their last ten against teams with a winning record.
Normally, a quarterback change signals a scheme or gameplan change but do not expect the Buckeyes to look very different with Barrett at the helm instead of Cardale Jones. OSU is drowning in dual-threat quarterbacks and they all have experience as well. Barrett and Jones (and Braxton Miller, for that matter) throw the ball with about the same accuracy but Barrett is the more dynamic runner in 2015, averaging 7.9 yards per carry with five touchdowns. Add Ezekial Elliott (6.7 ypc, 11TD) to the mix of three running QB-athletes and you see why Ohio State is 13th in the nation in rushing yards per game. Michael Thomas leads the team in catches, yards and receiving touchdowns (5) with Miller mixing in as part of the receiving game as well. OSU has proven it can score in just about any way you can think of, they are still looking for that last bit of consistency however to ascend to another level of dominance.
Rutgers is no joke on offense. The Scarlet Knights are top-50 across the board in yards gained and average 34.8 points per contest. They pulled off a stunning 55-52 win at Indiana last week, scoring the final 22 points of the game, all in the fourth quarter. Chris Laviano threw for 386 yards and three scores in that game to bring his touchdown total to 12 and Leonte Caroo is proving he is a premier playmaker at wide receiver. Caroo is 4th in the NCAA with nine touchdown receptions and has played just four games. His presence opens up so many opportunities for the running game and the RB tandem of Robert Martin and Josh Hicks will get to face an Ohio State run defense that is allowing 158 yards per game. Getting points on the board is critical for Rutgers as their defense is less than stout, to say the least.
Rutgers doesnt look like it will provide much resistance to the OSU offense as the Knights rank outside the top-100 in total yards allowed and are nearly the worst pass defense in all the land, allowing 319 yards through the air. They are statistically better against the run but that is skewed by teams simply passing the ball with ease and Rutgers is allowing nearly 30 points per game. It seems pretty clear that Ohio State will move the ball and will score so the most important question in regards to covering the spread is how many will Rutgers score?
The Buckeyes are a good defensive unit but they havent been so good that teams struggle to score against them. Allowing just 10 points to Penn State last week was a solid effort but Maryland got them for 28 the week prior. If Rutgers is limited to 20 or less, the OSU cover is likely no worse than a 50-50 bet but that cover percentage starts to fall fast in my opinion if Rutgers can get 21 or more on the board. Caroo is battling a lower body injury per the official injury report but signs are that he plays. His availability is a key for the offense, so check his status as I like OSU if Caroo is out.
Ultimately, I think Rutgers gives Ohio State enough problems this weekend and scores enough to get an ATS win. This was a 56-17 Ohio State win last year in Columbus and it stands to reason that the Rutgers fans will be viewing this primetime game as a bowl of sorts, or at least the most hyped contest left on the calendar. Expect Rutgers best punch and if the crowd stays in it, look for the Scarlet Knights to hang with the Buckeyes in a similar fashion to the way Indiana and Maryland did. Ohio State stays unblemished on the season but there is enough offensive talent on Rutgers to get points on the board and make that 21 points spread just a bit too much to swallow. OSU 40 Rutgers 23
Evergreens Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Rutgers
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