In preparation for the Buckeyes to welcome the Rutgers Scarlet Knights to Ohio Stadium today, we chatted with Greg Patuto, the managing editor of On The Banks, our SB Nation sibling site that covers the State University of New Jersey.
Coming into the game, the Scarlet Knights are still unsure of who will be playing quarterback as both dual-threat option Gavin Wimsatt and the more experienced Noah Vedral are both slated as game-time decisions having been dealing with injuries. If neither QB is able to go, sophomore Evan Simon will take over in their stead.
LGHL: What’s the latest on Gavin Wimsatt and Noah Vedral? What are the chances that one or both of them will be available on Saturday?
OTB: Both Gavin Wimsatt and Noah Vedral remain game-time decisions. They are improving but unknown if we will see them on Saturday. Greg Schiano will likely not reveal any information until right before game time.
LGHL: Imagining that you had the power to grant one of them 100% health, which one would you want on the field against Ohio State? The Buckeyes had problems containing a running quarterback in Week 3, but are incredibly thin at cornerback, seemingly playing to the strengths of either QB.
OTB: There is good and bad for both options. Rutgers’ fans would likely say that they would want Gavin Wimsatt to return first. He came into Rutgers as a highly-touted recruit but has struggled to throw the ball. Wimsatt has shown accuracy issues and this has led to a couple turnovers and plenty of inconsistency.
Wimsatt is a good runner because of his size and speed. He is clearly the most athletic option under center. Noah Vedral brings experience but we know what he is. He has also been inconsistent over the last two years as the starter for Rutgers. As you mentioned, their strength would be running the ball. Against Ohio State, it would benefit the offense to have one of them back considering Evan Simon is not a mobile option.
LGHL: Through the first four games of the season, Rutgers has been great on defense, especially against the run. Who and/or what has made the defense so stout this season? And how will Greg Schiano use the unit’s strengths to combat OSU’s offense?
OTB: The defensive line has been strong to this point. Rutgers is allowing just 56.5 yards per game on the ground. Coming into the season, this was an area where Rutgers was hoping to show depth and that has come to fruition. Aaron Lewis has taken a huge step forward while Wesley Bailey and Ifeanyi Maijeh have added plenty. This is also a testament to the linebackers, which suffered the biggest losses from last season. Deion Jennings is second on the team in tackles and really taking on a big role.
With that being said, Rutgers has not faced an offense like Ohio State – and won’t for the remainder of the season after this game. It’s almost like picking your poison when thinking about how to attack this Ohio State offense. Do you want to drop back in coverage to slow down the receivers or send pressure and trust the secondary?
There might not be a correct answer. If I had to say what I would want to see, I’m curious how the experienced secondary of Rutgers would handle the elite Buckeye receivers. Max Melton is one of the most underrated corners in the Big Ten and one that we could see at the next level eventually. Even if Jaxon Smith-Njigba doesn’t play, Rutgers will be tested all afternoon.
LGHL: In Schiano’s third season back at Rutgers — after three in Columbus — what are fans’ feelings about his second tenure with the team?
OTB: After the success of the first tenure, fans believe in Schiano and what he can do to turn the program around. In a couple ways, he already has. Schiano is beginning to get his recruits in the building and this will only help moving forward. We are seeing the defense improve significantly this season. Rutgers defeated Syracuse and Boston College over the last two years. These are not the best programs but road, Power Five victories nonetheless. Fans trust Schiano and his process moving forward.
LGHL: If Saturday’s game is within one score late in the fourth quarter, what do you think the major storyline will be that will give Rutgers the chance to pull the upset?
OTB: The major storyline would be that something happened to Ohio State. I’m not exactly sure what that would be but the game is in Columbus so we can’t even say that the bus would get lost or anything. It would be one of the more surprising things we have seen if Rutgers can keep this game close.
LGHL: You don’t have to pick a specific score (but you are welcome to if you want), but how do you think the game plays out on Saturday?
OTB: I made my game prediction and said Ohio State wins 55-10. This is an offense that looks locked in and will not slow down. The Buckeyes have put Rutgers away early over the years and there is no reason that it won’t happen again. We have seen some trickery from Rutgers once these games became lopsided so fans might have that to look forward to.