Rutgers hoping to spoil Barrett's 2015 starting debut
Who: No. 1 Ohio State vs. Rutgers
When: Saturday, 8 p.m. ET
Where: High Point Solutions Stadium, Rutgers
Spread: Ohio State -21.5
Matchup to watch: Leonte Carroo vs. Vonn Bell
No B1G receiver is playing at the level Carroo is playing at right now. He has nine touchdowns in 14 quarters of football this year. That’s absurd. Nobody can match up with him one-on-one and for some reason, he’s been able to get behind defenses. Well, a midseason All-American safety will look to change that. Bell can make a one-on-one matchup on the outside all but disappear with the way he helps out over the top. The former five-star recruit has emerged into a bonafide star on the Buckeye defense that ranks fourth in the country against the pass. Carroo is considered a game-time decision because of an ankle injury, but it would be surprising to see the senior sidelined for a challenge against the nation’s best. Carroo will need to be at full strength to win battles against a safety like Bell.
Thing I’m excited to see: J.T. Barrett start at quarterback
The time has finally come. Barrett is starting once again — eight weeks too late if you ask some — for the high-powered Buckeyes. It was a move that Urban Meyer had to make after Barrett stole the show in each of the last two Buckeye victories. With the ground game rolling like it was, the Buckeyes looked like the team we all expected them to be. Maybe Barrett finally felt 100 percent operating on the ankle he broke at the end of 2014. Whatever the case may be, the Buckeyes now have the mobile threat at quarterback that best fits Meyer’s offense. With it being Barrett’s first start in 11 months, expect the Buckeyes to establish the ground game before they start airing it out. Barrett might be understandably over-amped for this one.
Number to remember: 1
Ready for a stat that will blow your mind? The Scarlet Knights are the B1G’s best converting third downs. That’s a credit to Chris Laviano, who has looked rock solid since coming off the bye. It also helps that Rutgers has three capable backs in Josh Hicks, Robert Martin, and Paul James, all of whom have flashed big-play ability this year. That means Ohio State, which has been susceptible to allowing long runs in recent weeks, can’t assume a third down is automatically a pass. Sure-tackler Joshua Perry will still be battling an ankle injury, so Raekwon McMillan and Darron Lee will have to do a better job of containing the run than they did last week.
Prediction: Ohio State 42, Rutgers 24
When Carroo is on the field, the Rutgers offense actually looks better than advertised. Unfortunately for the Scarlet Knights, they don’t have anywhere near the weapons Ohio State has. With all the attention on Barrett, Elliott eclipses 200 yards and gets a couple second-half scores. Joey Bosa and Tyquan Lewis continue their harassment of opposing quarterbacks and keep the pressure on Laviano. I do expect Rutgers will make enough plays in the running game to keep this close in the first half. But the Buckeyes, as they’ve done all year, will turn on the burners in the second half and cruise to a three-possession victory.