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Ohio State opens as 18-point favorites over Rutgers

The Buckeyes travel to Piscataway to take on the bowl eligible Scarlet Knights.

Rutgers v Indiana Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

Ohio State took down Wisconsin 24-10 at Camp Randall on Saturday, and while the way they’ve gotten there each week definitely hasn't been perfect, the Buckeyes’ record remains unblemished at 8-0. Rutgers, meanwhile, is putting together a fantastic campaign under Greg Schiano, sitting at 6-2 on the year and reaching bowl eligibility with still four games left on the regular season schedule. The two teams will meet this weekend in Piscataway in what should be one of the closer matchups between these programs in their 10th meeting all-time.

All lines courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook.

Spread: Ohio State -18

Despite being now eight games into the season, Ohio State’s offense still doesn’t quite look like the Ohio State offense we have become accustomed to under Ryan Day. The unit isn’t bad by any means, averaging 32.5 points per game — good for 38th in the country — but obviously, more is to be expected. Kyle McCord’s inconsistent play and a lackluster offensive line has played a large role in the team’s shortcomings, but Marvin Harrison Jr. and TreVeyon Henderson, when healthy, have been two of the best players in the country at their positions. Throw in the hopeful return of Emeka Egbuka this Saturday, and there is still reason to believe the offense can hit a new gear.

Defensively, the Buckeyes have simply been one of the best in the nation. Jim Knowles’ group currently ranks No. 2 in all of FBS in scoring defense, allowing just 10 points per game. All three levels have really thrived this season, with star players like J.T. Tuimoloau, Tommy Eichenberg and Denzel Burke to anchor each group. Ohio State as a whole is allowing less than 100 yards rushing and just 160.3 yards passing per contest, and while they haven’t done a ton in terms of taking the ball away or creating havoc plays, the bend-don't-break style has certainly done its job.

On the other side, this is not your older brother’s Rutgers team! With still four games remaining in the regular season, the Scarlet Knights’ three in-conference victories are tied for the most ever in program history since they joined the Big Ten in 2014. Even if Rutgers were to lose each of its remaining four games — which could happen with Ohio State, Iowa, Penn State and Maryland left on the docket — it would still be the program’s best season since going 8-5 in 2014.

Rutgers has been one of the best rushing teams in the Big Ten, thanks largely in part to Kyle Monangai’s 744 yards and seven touchdowns and the dual-threat ability of quarterback Gavin Wimsatt, but the Scarlet Knights have not passed the ball well, averaging less than 150 yards through the air per game. Still, they have found a way to get on the scoreboard, averaging 28.1 points per contest to rank fifth in the B1G. That being said, they did struggle against the two best teams they’ve played thus far, scoring just seven points in a 31-7 loss to Michigan and 13 in a 24-13 loss to Wisconsin.

The Scarlet Knights have been surprisingly sturdy on defense, although I guess that shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise given Greg Schiano’s background. Rutgers is actually No. 2 in the Big Ten in passing yards allowed, giving up just 156.3 yards per game through the air — slightly better than Ohio State! Top cover corner Max Melton will likely be in charge of trying to slow down Harrison Jr. on Saturday, but Robert Longerbeam is no slouch in that secondary either. Aaron Lewis and Wesley Bailey have led the charge up front, as the duo as combined for six sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss.

The series between Ohio State and Rutgers has never been close, with the Buckeyes winning all nine meetings by an average margin of 41 points. As indicated by the spread, this matchup has the potential to be the closest game these two teams have played yet. Ohio State is still favored by three scores and should ultimately win the game, but it likely won't be another 58-0 or 56-0 final like we saw back in 2016 and 2017, respectively. The smallest margin between the two teams to this point has been 22 points in a 49-27 win for OSU in 2020 during the COVID-shortened season, and Rutgers should be competitive yet again this time around.

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