How can the Buckeyes beat Rutgers? Three keys for Ohio State football game

The Ohio State football team plays Rutgers on Saturday in the final of five straight home games to open the 2022 football season.

So far, so good in 2022 as No. 3 Ohio State is undefeated and has scored 129 points in their past two games. The Buckeyes opened Big Ten play with a 52-21 win over Wisconsin. Meanwhile, Rutgers started the season 3-0 but lost to Iowa at home in their conference opener.

Ohio State Buckeyes:Family guy: Palaie Gaoteote proud of his parents, siblings and ancestors

Here are three keys for No. 3 Ohio State against Rutgers on Saturday:

Ohio State needs to limit mistakes

If there’s any scenario in which Ohio State is threatened by Rutgers on Saturday afternoon, it’s likely due to mistakes of its own doing. That means continuing to cut down on penalties. After committing 16 over the first two weeks that ranged from holding to leaping over the punt shield, allowing Arkansas State and Notre Dame to extend drives, the Buckeyes were flagged just four times against Toledo and Wisconsin.

OSU football:No timetable set for return of Ohio State football's Jaxon Smith-Njigba

Ohio State receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. catches a pass against Toledo.
Ohio State receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. catches a pass against Toledo.

Buckeyes to air it out

While Rutgers brings the Big Ten’s highest-ranked rush defense to Columbus, its pass defense has been more susceptible. It gives up an average of 6.8 yards per pass attempt, ranking ninth out of the 14 teams in the conference and should lead quarterback C.J. Stroud to spot enough holes in the Scarlet Knights’ secondary. Stroud is clicking. He’s thrown for 16 touchdowns over four games, more than any other passer in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Ohio State should look to keep stretching the field.

Bring pressure against Rutgers

Considering the instability of Rutgers’ quarterback situation, having Noah Vedral and Gavin Wimsatt sidelined in recent weeks, the Buckeyes should look to cause disruption in the backfield. Evan Simon, the third-string quarterback who has been left as the only available scholarship passer, completed less than half of his throws when blitzed by Iowa, according to data from Pro Football Focus. Even if Vedral or Wimsatt return, Jim Knowles’ defense could make their reacclimation difficult.

Ohio State defense:Freshmen Ohio State cornerbacks Brown and Johnson proved up to task

Key matchup in OSU vs Rutgers

Ohio State offensive line vs. Rutgers defensive end Wesley Bailey

The Buckeyes should make sure to block Bailey, a third-year sophomore from Canada. He’s been Rutgers’ most disruptive defender through four weeks with team highs in sacks (2.5) and tackles for loss (five). Stroud hasn’t been under much duress. The Buckeyes have allowed only two sacks, the sixth fewest in the FBS, and even Wisconsin’s physical front hardly got after him. Stroud was pressured on only four of his 27 dropbacks against the Badgers, as shown by PFF’s data. But there’s never a good time for an offensive line to be leaky.

Ohio State:Hall of famer and former captain Billy Ray Anders recalls colorful career

Key stat

42.5: Margin of victory by Ohio State in its eight games against Rutgers since the Scarlet Knights joined the Big Ten in 2014.

Joey Kaufman covers Ohio State football for The Columbus Dispatch. Contact him at jkaufman@dispatch.com or on Twitter @joeyrkaufman

Get more Ohio State football news by listening to our podcasts

This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Ohio State football keys for Rutgers game