COLUMBUS – The element of surprise would be a most unexpected guest at the table when Ohio State plays Rutgers today at Ohio Stadium.
Even the best mystery novel writer would have a hard time convincing anyone there is any mystery to be found about the outcome of the No. 2-ranked Buckeyes’ Big Ten football opener against the Scarlet Knights.
Never say never, but the chance Rutgers could pull off an incredible upset is very small. Very, very small.
Rutgers (2-2, 0-1 Big Ten) has wins over Howard and New Mexico. It lost its opener 48-13 to Washington and played its best game in a 14-7 loss to Iowa last Saturday.
But Rutgers lost its best offensive player Janarion Grant in the Iowa game when he suffered a season-ending ankle injury. Through four games, Grant was the Scarlet Knights’ leading pass catcher, their No. 2 rusher, their best return man and had thrown a touchdown pass.
Former Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash was hired last December to turn around Rutgers’ program.
Eventually when he fills up the roster with his own recruits, he might do that. But for now, a lot of the players who lost 56-17 and 49-7 to Ohio State the last two seasons are still around. So, even with Ash’s knowledge of OSU’s personnel and schemes, it’s difficult to see this turning into a close game.
Ohio State (3-0, 0-0 Big Ten) could struggle more with the expectations created by a fast start and the rust that might have built up during a week off since beating Oklahoma 45-24 two weeks ago than with the Scarlet Knights.
A month ago people were talking about what would be realistic expectations for Ohio State with only six returning starters.
Now after beating Bowling Green 77-10, routing Tulsa 48-3 and winning by three touchdowns at Oklahoma, all bets are off in the expectations department. The sky is the limit. And we’re talking a bright blue sunny day sky, not the ominous gathering of clouds that delayed the kickoff 90 minutes at Oklahoma.
Ohio State fans and many people in the media are already writing Ohio State’s name in on the College Football Playoff bracket.
Crazy expectations are nothing new at Ohio State. Actually, they’re more like business as usual.
There is little doubt the Buckeyes have been warned against getting ahead of themselves by Meyer and the rest of OSU’s coaches.
Earlier this week, cornerback Marshon Lattimore said, “We can always get better. We’re not as good as other people think we are. We still have room to grow, a lot of room to grow.”
Maybe Lattimore came up with that on his own. Maybe that thought was planted by some of his coaches. Whatever the source, the message has been sent.
And whether Ohio State picks up where it left off against Oklahoma or takes a bit of a step backward, the Buckeyes will be the ones sending a message on the field today.
The prediction: Ohio State 45-14.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.