Newly minted No. 1 Ohio State focuses on Rutgers

Field Level Media

November 01, 2023 at 2:59 am.

A reporter asked Ohio State coach Ryan Day if he would spend Tuesday night watching the initial College Football Playoff rankings show or trick-or-treating with his family for Halloween.

“I’ll be watching film of practice,” Day deadpanned.

When Day checks his phone, he will find that the Buckeyes (8-0, 5-0 Big Ten) earned the CFP committee’s first No. 1 ranking of the season. It came as a bit of a surprise after Georgia held the top spot in every AP poll to date and Ohio State hadn’t risen past No. 3.

The Buckeyes’ next task is a game against Rutgers on Saturday in Piscataway, N.J.

TreVeyon Henderson racked up 162 rushing yards and a touchdown on 24 carries in Ohio State’s 24-10 win at Wisconsin last week. Day felt the Buckeyes’ offensive line has made good progress with its run blocking.

“We’ll see where that takes us on Saturday against Rutgers, but we want to be playing our best football down the stretch, and that’s a big part of what we’ve been focusing on,” Day said. “This time of year, you want to be enhancing the things you’re doing well and improving the things that you feel like you need to improve on.”

Henderson is back in the fold after missing three games with an injury, but fellow running back Miyan Williams is out for the year following a knee procedure.

Rutgers (6-2, 3-2) is fourth in the Big Ten East behind Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State following a 31-14 win at Indiana two weeks ago. That victory made the Scarlet Knights bowl-eligible, giving them six wins for the first time since 2014.

Greg Schiano’s second stint as Rutgers’ coach is progressing similarly to the first, when he brought a once-moribund program to a string of bowl games beginning in 2005. Schiano said that in both instances, it has taken patience to build up the program.

“We don’t get ready-mades like the team we are playing this week,” Schiano said. “They get some guys that come in that are five-star guys. We don’t get a lot of those, but that’s OK. We know who we are. That’s the key to being us at Rutgers is we develop guys, they believe in what we’re doing, they believe in the development, and we’re getting close to having the pipeline full and that’s where things get fun when that pipeline gets full.”

Schiano rained praise on the Buckeyes, declaring wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. is “arguably one of the best players in the country” and every starter on defense would reach the NFL.

He is also familiar with Ohio State quarterback Kyle McCord, who grew up in New Jersey and whose father Derek played quarterback at Rutgers from 1988-92. Schiano overlapped with the elder McCord while working as a graduate assistant in 1989.

“(Kyle McCord) is a fiery leader, and you can see his teammates believe in him,” Schiano said. “He’s a young quarterback who is getting better every week.”

McCord threw for 226 yards and two touchdowns against Wisconsin but tossed two interceptions in the first half.

“That was all positive there that he was able to move on from that, because some guys struggle with that. They can’t quite get over what just happened,” Day said.

McCord was seen limping after the game with ice wrapped around an ankle, but he is expected to play against Rutgers.

For the Scarlet Knights, Kyle Monangai ranks second in the Big Ten with 744 rushing yards. Rutgers has allowed the fewest sacks in the league (seven), allowing junior quarterback Gavin Wimsatt room to grow. He had 143 rushing yards and three touchdowns on the ground against Indiana.

Ohio State leads the all-time series 9-0, scoring 49 points or more in all nine meetings. Rutgers’ defense has not given up more than 24 points in a game this season.