Ohio State wary of familiar Rutgers
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- When Urban Meyer looks across the field to the other sideline on Saturday afternoon in Ohio Stadium, he'll see several familiar faces.
When the Ohio State coach watches the Rutgers defense, he'll see almost a carbon copy of the schemes that his team runs.
"It's our defense. I mean like exactly," Meyer said. "They do a very good job and their defensive line is much improved and the guys are bigger and stronger and they also stole one of our strength coaches, Kenny Parker, and it looks like it. They're very strong."
That's a reason the defense is so similar.
Chris Ash was hired as Rutgers head coach in December after two years as Meyer's co-defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach at Ohio State. Ash took several assistants with him, including Parker.
On the Ohio State side, assistant head coach and defensive coordinator Greg Schiano was the head coach at Rutgers from 2001 to 2011 before moving on to the NFL as the head coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and then landing in Columbus on Meyer's staff this year.
But the similarities pretty much end there. The second-ranked Buckeyes (3-0, 0-0 Big Ten) will take the field for their homecoming game and Big Ten opener (noon, BTN) with far superior talent to Rutgers (2-2, 0-1), which played a competitive game on Saturday at home against Iowa before falling 14-7.
With several coaches who worked last year for Ohio State now at Rutgers, the Buckeyes will take extra precautions to guard against predictable tendencies or tipping signals.
"This is very serious stuff and we have had that conversation ... in great detail," Meyer said. "We changed most of our defensive signals prior to this and offensively we're being very cautious, also special teams. ... So we've just got to be sharp."
Ash downplayed any advantage that being part of the Ohio State program might have this week. After all, the coaches aren't the ones playing.
"It's not about me knowing all the (Ohio State) players," Ash said. "It's about our players knowing the players and going out and making plays. They are going to have to go out and make the call in all three phases. That's what matters."
Compounding the challenge for Rutgers this week is the loss of two of its better players last week. Wide receiver and kick returner Janarion Grant (ankle) and defensive end Quanzell Lambert (knee) suffered season-ending injuries.
Ohio State has shown in nonconference games that it's a forced to be reckoned with again this year not only in the Big Ten but nationally. The Buckeyes proved that in the last game before their bye week.
They were more than okey-dokey against Oklahoma two weeks ago. The Buckeyes blew the doors off the Sooners in Norman, rolling to a 45-24 win in Norman, Oklahoma, in dominating performance from the outset.
Through three games, Ohio State is averaging 56.7 points per game and 545.3 yards in total offense. Quarterback J.T. Barrett has passed for 10 touchdowns with one interception and the Ohio State defense has nine interceptions (four returned for touchdowns) and leads the nation in turnover margin at plus-9.
One other stat that makes the Buckeyes even more imposing: They're 14-0 in October since Meyer arrived for the 2012 season. So should there be any concerns about this team going forward?
"It's so early right now and you better worry about the next game, the next practice, the next game, and not worry about anything else," Meyer said. "That's my concern is with all the added publicity, press conferences and everybody being told how good they are. I really worry about that."
Ohio State, a 37-point favorite, begins nine consecutive weeks of conference play after their bye weekend.
"Big Ten, that's the real deal," Ohio State linebacker Chris Worley said. "There are a lot of good teams in the Big Ten right now. It's one of the strongest, if not the (strongest) conference. We've got a lot of good teams to play. It's going to be a long journey."
Barrett is looking forward to getting back out on the field after a Saturday off.
"If anything, I like how it's going to be straight games so we can try to get into a rhythm and stay in a rhythm going into Big Ten play," he said. "I kind of like that it was earlier. I wouldn't want the bye week to be later because it might mess up the rhythm we had."