PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) — Ohio State is the one Big Ten Conference foe that's had its way with Rutgers since the Scarlet Knights joined the league in 2014.
The teams have met nine times and the No. 3 Buckeyes have won every one comfortably. The closest the Scarlet Knights have been at the end of a contest was 22 points.
There's a chance the big gap may close a little this year when the Scarlet Knights (6-2, 3-2) host the Buckeyes, (8-0, 5-0, No. 1 in the CFP) at SHI Stadium on Saturday.
While they have lost to No. 2 Michigan and a Wisconsin team that Ohio State beat 24-10 last weekend, Rutgers have been competitive.
“I look at it as an amazing opportunity," Rutgers quarterback Gavin Wimsatt said. "The number one (CFP) team in the country is coming into our stadium this weekend in front of our fans. The opportunity to compete and be out there with my guys and just go out there and play the game we love.”
The reason for Rutgers' hope is coach Greg Schiano finally has a full recruiting class in the fourth year of his second tour. His defense is outstanding. His ball-control offense has limited its mistakes and Wimsatt has exceeded expectations. Special teams also is making big plays.
While Ohio State remains a top team, it's offense has not been as dynamic as recent years. The defense remains among the best in the nation.
“I think it’s a mindset, you know, you’re not allowed to have a bad day at Ohio State," Buckeyes coach Ryan Day said. "Any of us, that’s just the way it goes. So I say all the time, on your bad days you have to be average at the very least, if not better than that. On your average days, you got to be really good. On your good days, you got to be great.”
That's usually been the case when Ohio State faces Rutgers.
The Buckeyes finally got their ground game moving after struggling much of the season.
No. 1 back TreVeyon Henderson returned against Wisconsin after missing three games with an injury caused by what he called a “cheap shot” in a win over Notre Dame. He carried 24 times for 162 yards and iced the game with a 33-yard run with 5:15 left.
“We took a step in the right direction, and getting Tre back helped us,” Day said. “But that was one game. You know, we’ll figure out where we’re at this week, and then at the end of the season, you come up for air and figure out where you’re at.”
BEAT UP BUCKEYES
The Buckeyes have a couple of key players nursing injuries.
Quarterback Kyle McCord limped off the field favoring his right ankle after last week’s win. Backup quarterback Devin Brown injured an ankle in the previous week’s win over Penn State. Day said he was going to start practicing again this week.
Receiver Emeka Egbuka and safety Lathan Ransom are questionable due to injures.
STOPPING MR. HARRISON
Ohio State junior wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. is going to be a top pick in the NFL Draft when he comes out. Stopping him will be a major task for Rutgers.
The son of Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison Sr., Harrison has 48 catches for 889 yards and eight touchdowns this season. His 18.5 yard average is No. 1 nationally among receivers with at least 40 catches. He had 77 catches for 1,263 yards and 14 TDs last year.
The Scarlet Knights rank second nationally in passing defense, giving up 156.2 yards. Cornerbacks Max Melton and Robert Longerbeam and safeties Flip Dixon and Shaquan Loyal have interceptions this season.
Special teams play has been a trademark of Schiano's 15 years at Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights have blocked 68 kicks in his tenure and scored on 13 blocked punts.
The last time was two weeks ago when Loyal blocked an Indiana punt and fellow defensive back Eric Rogers scooped it up and returned 17 yards for his first career touchdown in the past two games.
In the previous game against Michigan State, running back Aaron Young recovered a ball that slipped through the hands of Michigan State punter for a touchdown.
Rutgers has relied on a ball-control offense that features Wimsatt and Kyle Monangai running behind an offense line that has paved the way for four 250-yard games on ground. The total matches the number it had in the previous six seasons (70 games).
Monangai is second in the Big Ten with 744 yards rushing, including 109 against Indiana. Wimsatt rushed for 143 in the same game, the most by a quarterback in program history.
AP Sports Writer Mitch Stacy contributed to this report.
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