It is a true marquee showdown in Columbus this weekend, as the Ohio State Buckeyes will host the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, a team currently tied for second place in the Big Ten East alongside... * checks notes * Michigan.
In all seriousness, this matchup has been a laugher since Rutgers joined the Big Ten in 2014. The Buckeyes have won all six contests in the history of the series, with an average margin of victory of 46.5 points. The closest game in the series, surprisingly, was last year’s 56-21 tilt in Piscataway. Before that, Ohio State had outscored the originators of college football 271-27 over the first five meetings.
While the Scarlet Knights look to be much improved in the early goings of this odd 2020 season, they are still likely a long ways away from really competing with Ryan Day’s squad. However, they do have a handful of really talented guys worth keeping an eye on this Saturday.
Offensive Player to Watch: Bo Melton
If there was one main area that fans of Ohio State expressed concerns about following what was an impressive win against Penn State this past weekend, it was the struggles in the secondary. It is no secret that the Buckeyes are lacking much experience from their defensive backs with all they lost to the NFL Draft in the offseason, and even the top dog — Shaun Wade — was suspect in coverage at times.
Rutgers doesn’t exactly have a high-powered, air-raid offense, but their best weapon on that side of the ball is without a doubt wide receiver Bo Melton. The senior has caught eight passes for 98 yards with a pair of touchdowns through the team’s first two games. While that doesn’t sound like a whole lot compared to what Ohio State’s wideouts have been doing, that is good enough to account for nearly 33% of the Scarlet Knights’ passing offense.
Thanks to an entirely new coaching staff, Melton is on pace to shatter his previous career highs at Rutgers. He finished last year with a total of 30 catches for 427 yards and two TDs over 12 games, including three catches for 57 yards and a TD against Ohio State in the 2019 meeting. In addition, he was almost the beneficiary of one of the coolest plays in college football last week when it appeared the Scarlet Knights had scored on a nine-lateral play, but it was called back for an illegal forward pass.
There are a few other guys worth mentioning on this Rutgers offense. Noah Vedral is certainly an upgrade at QB from what we have seen in recent years. The Nebraska transfer has completed nearly 62% of his passes to begin the new campaign, compiling 299 yards passing with three TDs and four INTs. They also still feature RB Isaih Pacheco, who ran for over 700 yards a season ago and has already found the end zone twice this season.
Defensive Player to Watch: Tyshon Fogg
Rutgers hasn’t exactly been known for their defense through the years, as evidenced by the scoring margin in their meetings against Ohio State. However, this year’s Scarlet Knight defense has actually seen some significant improvements, especially when it comes to stopping the run. It has only been two games, but Greg Schiano’s defense ranks 34th in all of FBS in run defense. A large part of this has been the play of their experienced group of linebackers, headlined by Tyshon Fogg.
Fogg, a senior and former All-Big Ten honorable mention linebacker, leads the team thus far with 20 tackles, including three tackles for loss. Named a preseason All-Big Ten player by Athlon Sports, he has been a force on this defense for quite some time. A year ago, he led Rutgers with a whopping 93 tackles — 13 more than the next-highest total — with 1.5 sacks and a pass breakup. He is a large reason why the Scarlet Knights have been so good at shutting down the run game to start the season.
At this side is fellow linebacker Olakunle Fatukasi, who was named the Bednarik Player of the Week and Co-Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week after his efforts in a 10-tackle performance in the opener against Michigan State. Also of note is a name Ohio State fans know pretty well in safety Brendon White. A former breakout defensive back for the Buckeyes who couldn’t find a role on the 2019 team, transferred to Rutgers this past December. He has looked really good early on in Piscataway, posting 15 tackles and an INT thus far.