Finally we are one day away from the Battle of The Scarlets. The Scarlet Knights of Rutgers try to invade Columbus with hopes of upsetting the Scarlet and Gray of Ohio State. This week I have had the great pleasure of getting to work with one Rutgers blogger and one Rutgers successful podcast host. I know shocking Rutgers has fans right (I kid). It has been a pleasure to work with Sal from salsoothsayer.com who not only is a big Rutgers fan but also a big B1G fan and have had the pleasure of working with him in the past. Also joining the conversation today is Jerry who is host of the R Big Show and in that link you can hear us talk some about the game last night.
Time to grab your favorite beverage and sit back and enjoy what they bring to the table for us today.
MotSaG: What are Rutgers fans thoughts of the Big Ten and becoming a part of the conference?
Sal Rutgers fans literally could not be more excited. There is a tremendous amount of pride that students, alumni and fans of the school feel in the acceptance into the premier athletic and academic conference in the nation. Most supporters of Rutgers realize this goes well beyond the athletic field and they understand how academic programs and research will benefit immensely. For half of a decade now Rutgers has been a team without a home. Fans and supporters feel that has ended now.
Jerry It has been everything we thought it would be. I’ve enjoyed the coverage on the Big Ten network. Rutgers has played Penn State. They have played Michigan. Both of the games were at home and were electric. They play Ohio State this week, with Nebraska next week and Wisconsin and Michigan State still down the road. As a college football fan you could not ask for more!
MotSaG: Whats more surprising that you didn’t think you would have heard in the preseason, Rutgers starts season 5-1 or Gary Nova first ever player to win Player of the Week award in three different conferences?
Sal I think that most would feel that one would have to come with the other. The only way that Rutgers could be 5-1 is with great quarterback play and the team has had great quarterback play this season. Including Nova’s forgettable game against Penn State he has completed 93 of 150 passes (62.0%) for 1601 yards and 13 touchdowns against 7 interceptions. He has thrown for over 280 yards in four or Rutgers six games. Nova also became Rutgers career leader in passing touchdowns this season. Most fans would have been excited by a 4-2 start so 5-1 has Rutgers fans very optimistic going into the second half of the season.
Jerry Gary Nova garnering POW is not the least bit surprising. He has always had very good games – he is the school’s all-time touchdown leader – it is the consistency against quality defenses that we are looking for. Many felt the Scarlet Knights could pull off a win against Penn State or Michigan. However, to do so and not stumble along the way with a tough road opener at Washington State and a gritty Navy team in the middle of the first part of the schedule has been a testament to the toughness of this team and the preparation of the staff.
MotSaG: Do you expect the Scarlet Knight players being lost in awe of playing in the Horseshoe?
Sal I think excited is more the correct term than awe. Certainly the players are recognize this opportunity. It will clearly be the biggest venue that the players have played in but two years ago the team went to Fayetteville, Arkansas in front of 70,000 plus and left with a 35-26 victory. At 5-1 this game on ABC at 3:30 is kind of like playing with house money.
Jerry They should be. It is one of the truly amazing venues in college football. Who could not take a moment, to imagine yourself as a kid on the Pee Wee fields and watching games Ohio State games on TV and then coming to the realization that here you are in front of 107,000 fans at Horseshoe! It is culmination of years of hard work and dedication that each player has put in over his career. However, don’t take awe as being shell-shocked. In fact, it is a great motivation factor to play in such an environment. Who wouldn’t want to star or put together their best effort on this stage?
MotSaG: Key players on defense Buckeye fans should keep an eye on?
Sal Well Rutgers defensive line has received a lot of credit this year and deservedly so. Redshirt freshman, athletic freak and pass-rushing specialist 6’6 235 Kemoko Turay leads the Big Ten with 5.5 sacks (and leads the nation with 3 blocked field goals). But the DL starts in the middle with the play of New Jersey native junior Darius Hamilton. Hamilton plays the 3-technique at 265 lbs so he will be undersized but he has been undersized all season and has still contributed 6 TFL and 3.5 sacks. Hamilton moves inside to nose on passing downs. Sophomore Steve Longa led the team in tackles last year from MLB but switched to play WILL this year. He has 41 tackles so far this season but has not put together a breakout game. That could come this week.
Jerry If they haven’t already, they should learn the name Kemoko Turay. Turay is already building his own legend with 5.5 sacks and three blocked field goals as a raw red-shirt freshman. A former basketball player, he is still very green and may be somewhat mitigated by the read-zone offense of Ohio State. But if it is 3rd and long, zero in on number 58 and you will see one of the most athletic players to ever don the Scarlet for Rutgers.
MotSaG: What concerns do the Scarlet knight fans have about Buckeyes offense?
Sal When a team averages 45 points a game the obvious answer is “a lot”. The biggest concern I have is the quarterback play of J.T. Barrett. Barrett seems to be getting better by the week. Certainly the first priority for Rutgers will be stopping the run but Barrett could really make Rutgers pay with his arm and his legs if Rutgers sells out to stop the running backs.
Jerry What is there not to be concerned about? Of late, QB J.T Barrett has been brilliant and RB Ezekiel Elliot has replaced Carlos Hyde quite famously. Rutgers will need to generate pressure from its front four and when the opportunities to take down Barrett are there they must tackle and tackle well. Keeping Ohio State’s offense off the field will be the best defense.
MotSaG: With the loss of RB Paul James for the year and Rutgers having a bye week was there a lot of focus on trying to improve run game?
Sal There needs to be. The teams running game is improved from last year but not by leaps and bounds. Rutgers struggled to run the ball against Penn State and Michigan. Against Michigan Gary Nova made them pay. Against Penn State he did not. Offensive Coordinator Ralph Friedgen will take what the defense gives him. If Ohio State commits to stopping the run look for Friedgen to get Nova some confidence with easy completions early on before taking the deep shot.
Jerry Most definitely! It is shame that James could not play in this stretch of games for Rutgers. His absence is missed not only by Scarlet Knights fans, but for the fans of the other teams to see him play. However, Offensive Coordinator has been a difference maker so as much as they may be working on the run they are surely game-planning to attack the untested parts of this defense. I would expect safeties Vonn Bell and Tyvis Powell to see a lot of action as the Rutgers has to attack the back-middle of this defense.
MotSaG: Speaking of Paul James what are your thoughts on Ohio State offering his brother Ronnie this week who is already a Rutgers commit?
Sal Well Urban Meyer changed recruiting in the Big Ten a few years ago with his disregard for gentlemen’s agreements. You can argue if that is good or not that isn’t the debate. Rutgers’ fans might be upset at Meyer for the timing of the offer but certainly it speaks highly of Rutgers Coach Kyle Flood’s ability to evaluate talent as the younger James is a borderline two or three star recruit based off of the recruiting services. Not usually the type of athlete Ohio State offers.
Jerry It surely shows the high-stakes game that is called recruiting. The timing was surely somewhat premeditated. On the flipside, it also validates that Ronnie James is potentially a great reel-in for the Scarlet Knights, as Urban Meyer is not just going to throw around scholarship offers.
MotSaG: Point spread is 19.5 do you feel that is disrespectful to Rutgers and what they have done so far this season?
Sal Many feel the line is disrespectful and it crept to 21 earlier today so I’m not sure where the line will finish up. The line seems about right to me. Ohio State buried Maryland by almost 30 points at Byrd Stadium two weeks ago. 19 on the road for Rutgers seems like a compliment if you look at it that way!
Jerry One thing we can all agree is that Vegas tends to know what it is doing. It is a good number. Rutgers could play very well and still come out of this down by two touchdowns or more. On the other hand they are a 5-1 team that has been playing well. Is it disrespectful? No. But it is to be expected, after all this Ohio State and this is Rutgers. This season is about perception for the Scarlet Knight program. They are playing to prove they belong here and they are playing to show a state that is deep in talent that they are not far off from playing for Big Ten titles with their help. We are no longer into moral victories, but a close game here even with a loss could go a long way as well.
MotSaG: Keys for Rutgers to pull off an upset?
Sal First, Rutgers needs to weather the first quarter storm. If the Knights are within one score after the first quarter that will bode well. The obvious key is Rutgers needs to get to the passer. Their pass rush against Ohio State’s pass protection appears to be the Scarlet Knights’ biggest strength. But the key is in putting Ohio State in predictable passing downs and that starts with defense on first down. If Rutgers can keep Ohio State in second and third and long that will give the aggressive blitzing scheme of Rutgers defensive coordinator Joe Rossi a shot. Beyond that, Rutgers needs to win the turnover battle and get either a blocked punt or a big punt/kickoff return.
Jerry Nova has to continue to play well and not revert back to the turnover laden QB he has been in the past against top competition. Michigan was a start for him and if the offensive line could protect him he will have to stretch the Buckeye defense.
On the flipside of the ball, Rutgers will have to pressure J.T Barrett and hope he reverts back to being the red-shirt freshman who struggled against Virginia Tech.
MotSaG: Final score prediction?
Sal Since most people are predicting more points I’ll go less and say Ohio State 31 – Rutgers 17. I think Rutgers can hang around for a while but Ohio State’s tempo and ground game could wear down the Scarlet Knights defensive line resulting in a stressful, but in the end happy Homecoming for the Buckeyes.
Jerry I don’t do predictions, but I will tell you this: I am fairly confident they can beat the 19+ point spread! Many knock the Scarlet Knights for losing to Penn State and beating a struggling Michigan team as well, but Ohio State is one of only two Top 25 teams that has not played another ranked team as well. This is a very talented roster for Ohio State and they start some highly rated young players. But the Buckeyes are also very young. How will the young players respond to adversity if tested? Whatever the outcome, this is the type of game that makes inclusion in the Big Ten so much fun.
I’m not going to give my whole take on what I think the Buckeyes need to do this week as I pretty much summed that up in yesterdays pieced in my preview.
Once again I am so thankful for Sal and Jerry helping me discuss Rutgers for you Buckeye fans to see what they are thinking in the Garden State. You can follow Sal on Twitter @SalSoothsayer and Jerry @RUFANJERRY. Don’t forget to check out Sal’s site (plus you can see my weekly power poll there also) and check out Jerry’s podcast they do a great job covering Rutgers football. Hope you all enjoyed todays post. Have any questions feel free to send me an email to AskMotSag@gmail.com