Welcome to I Got Five On It, the column where I give you five things I’m looking for during Ohio State’s upcoming game. This week, we—and by ‘we,’ I mean ‘I’—have to come up with five reasons to watch Rutgers, and buddy let me tell you that it isn’t a pleasant experience.
Rutgers is fresh off a 35-7 win over Texas State, and looking to make the jump to a bowl game in old friend of the program Chris Ash’s third season. The good news for Ash is that if they can escape this game relatively healthy, they get Kansas, Buffalo, Indiana, and Illinois the next four weeks. The bad news is that if this game wrecks them heading into that stretch, this is how they finish 2018:
Let’s get to five things I’m looking for in tomorrow’s game:
Will Rutgers score?
As I’m sure you’ve read at some point this week, Rutgers hasn’t scored on Ohio State since 2015 (!), when Hayden Rettig threw a four yard touchdown pass to Andre Patton with 13 seconds left, resulting in the saddest cannon fire ever:
In 2016, they crossed the 50-yard line on their first drive, then this happened:
They didn’t run a single play in Ohio State territory the rest of the game.
Last year, this incredible moment kept the shutout streak alive:
It’s hard to see Ohio State shutting them out a third year in a row, but if anyone can top themselves, it’s Rutgers.
It was more than a little surprising when Dre’Mont Jones announced his return last off-season. Jones has been a stalwart in the middle of the Buckeyes’ defense for the past two years, and probably wouldn’t have fallen below the third round of the NFL Draft. If the Oregon State game was any indicator, he won’t fall past the first round in next year’s draft.
Jones terrorized the Oregon State interior, collecting two sacks (already more than he had all of 2017) but his best play WAS CHASING DOWN A WIDE RECEIVER 25 YARDS DOWNFIELD:
Ohio State’s coaching staff raved about him this off-season, and it was easy to see why in Week 1. Given that Rutgers’ front allowed four tackles for loss against Texas State, Jones has a great shot at continuing his strong start, and proving he made the right choice by coming back to Columbus on his path to the 2019 Draft.
Limiting big plays
The most glaring issue from last week’s game were the defensive breakdowns. Oregon State had touchdowns of 49, 78 and 80 yards, with the back end of Ohio State’s defense looking hilariously out of position at times:
In particular, safety Jahsen Wint and middle linebacker Baron Browning looked like players making their first starts (they were), so you would assume that things can only get better. Jordan Fuller coming back would help quite a bit, although his status is still undecided. It will also help that Rutgers might have been the least explosive team in the country last season, and only had three gains of 20-plus yards against Texas State last week.
It’ll be interesting to see whether the issues against Oregon State were just an aberration, nerves from players receiving their first meaningful playing time, or some other cliche that I’m throwing out there to mask my very real fear that Ohio State’s offense is going to have to drop 55 on everyone this season to win games.
Calling off the dogs early
Something that stood out last week was how long Ohio State’s top-end players were in the game for. Dwayne Haskins, Mike Weber and Co. played into the fourth quarter —two plays, to finish off a touchdown drive, but still— before Ryan Day truly was ready to shift to the second team. Oregon State continuing to score quick probably had something to do with that, but getting players into game shape is a real thing, and it felt like keeping those guys in was a part of the plan to do so. I don’t expect that to happen again tomorrow.
Unless Rutgers flips the script on all of us and makes this a game, Day will probably be mindful of how much work his starters get with TCU on deck. This not only limits the chances of them getting hurt, but provides an opportunity for younger players (Tate Martell, Haskell Garrett, Jaylen Harris, etc.) to get more opportunities in realer game situations than we saw them in last week.
A simple choice
I’d like you to watch these gifs, and tell me who you think should be returning punts for Ohio State: