Expectations are high for Taylor Decker. The most experienced member of the Ohio State offensive line -- affectionately known as "the slobs" -- doesn't easily blend into a crowd at 6'8 and 315 lbs, but it's his first-round NFL talent that really makes the left tackle stand out.
Current starts: 26 career starts
The game situation
The main objective for any left tackle is to protect the quarterback's blind side, so in that regard, Decker's job doesn't change much whether the Buckeyes start J.T. Barrett or Cardale Jones. However, it's safe to assume designed quarterback runs play a much bigger part of the playbook when Barrett is taking snaps.
With a Rutgers defense that is allowing just 126.2 yards per game on the ground, it's vital that Decker and the rest of the offensive line sustain their blocks and get to the second level. Skill players like Braxton Miller and 'Zeke Elliott can make amazing things happen, but they'll need the slobs paving the way.
In terms of pass protection, Rutgers is struggling to get after quarterbacks this year -- averaging only 1.67 sacks per game (currently 86th in FBS) -- so Decker gets a bit of a reprieve a week after facing an active Penn State defensive front. But keeping his quarterback upright is always a major concern, especially with the Buckeye offense still looking for tempo and rhythm from the QB spot.
What to watch for
The offensive line has come a long way since the Buckeyes last defeat on September 6, 2014. The slobs have emerged into an elite unit as Ohio State has rattled off 20 straight wins, and Decker is perhaps their biggest star.
If Decker and his o-line mates can control the line of scrimmage early and open up running lanes for 'Zeke Elliott and company, it's going to be a long day for the Scarlet Knights.
But we all know Rutgers is a desperate team. With their season and perhaps their coach's job on the line, expect them to pull out whatever tricks they have left in hopes of pulling the upset. If Rutgers can generate any semblance of a pass rush against the Buckeye protection and give Barrett happy feet in the pocket, it may be enough to keep things tight.
Ohio State's wide receivers are inexperienced and, unfortunately, haven't shown a real knack for crisp route running yet, making it even more important that Decker provides his QB with enough time and protection to complete his progressions.
Urban Meyer has said Ohio State is an O-line program, with one of the best position coaches in the game in Ed Warriner. Quite simply, it's time for Decker, Warriner's star pupil, to start dominating.
Good offensive line play is not easy to measure or quantify, but if the Buckeyes are gashing the defense on the ground and J.T. has whatever time he needs to complete a pass, know that Decker is getting the job done.
Decker was a key recruit in Meyer's first class at OSU, a late flip from Notre Dame. Four years later and he's piled up accolades and accomplishments -- he currently sits at 19 on Mel Kiper's Big Board -- but Decker can really cement his Buckeye legacy by taking over up front and helping the Ohio State offensive roll to another College Football Playoff appearance.