1. Keep Rutgers from starting fast

High Point Solutions Stadium is hardly one of college football’s most intimidating venues, but it is a night game on the road. Rutgers has tended to start fast this season. The Scarlet Knights have scored first three times, including touchdowns on two of their opening drives before their offense bogged down. If Ohio State wants to make this the blowout that oddsmakers expect, clamp down right away. 

2. Exploit Rutgers’ thin secondary

The Scarlet Knights lacked depth among their defensive backs even before top cornerback Blessuan Austin suffered a season-ending knee injury against Nebraska. Damon Hayes now moves into a starting role, and the backups lack game experience. With the number of three-, four- and five-receiver sets the Buckeyes use, that could overwhelm Rutgers, especially if OSU maintains its quick-tempo style. Ohio State’s passing game has improved since the Oklahoma game, even if the deep ball remains elusive. There is little doubt that the Buckeyes want to extend Rutgers’ defense horizontally and vertically until it breaks. 

3. Force Bolin into mistakes

Rutgers’ offensive line has done a good job of protecting quarterback Kyle Bolin, but even so, he has thrown six interceptions already. He hasn’t faced a defense that can come at him in waves like Ohio State’s defensive linemen can. Bolin isn’t a running threat — he has minus-3 yards rushing this season — so they can go after him without worrying about that. But it’s necessary for Ohio State’s defensive backs to take advantage of their opportunities and not give Rutgers freebies with interference penalties to keep drives alive. 

4. Keep building depth

Assuming the game goes according to plan, this will be another chance for the Buckeyes to give their backups more experience and, presumably, confidence. Antonio Williams has shown he can be an effective third running back. Defensive lineman Dylan Thompson, an afterthought after losing his scholarship because of academic issues, made some superb plays late against UNLV. Defensive end Chase Young got extended playing time, as did cornerback Jeffrey Okudah. The more these backups play, the bigger the payoff could be in big games.

Who's got the edge?

When Buckeyes run

Edge

OHIO STATE

The Scarlet Knights have given up only 3.3 yards per carry, but J.K. Dobbins, Mike Weber and J.T. Barrett should find running room.

When Buckeyes pass 

Edge

OHIO STATE

Rutgers has been vulnerable vs. the pass (12.6 yards per completion), and the OSU passing game has gained some traction lately. 

When Scarlet Knights run

Edge

OHIO STATE

The Buckeyes’ defensive line has been beastly and Rutgers is unlikely to exert its will at the line of scrimmage.

When Scarlet Knights pass

Edge

OHIO STATE

This remains an area of concern for Ohio State, but Rutgers QB Kyle Bolin has six interceptions and only three TD passes. 

Special teams

Edge

OHIO STATE

OSU showed improvement in kickoff coverage and Parris Campbell is a threat on returns. Janarion Grant is a dangerous returner for Rutgers. 

— Bill Rabinowitz / brabinowitz@dispatch.com / @brdispatch