When the 2020 Big Ten season began a few weeks ago, most pundits and fans around the conference felt Ohio State was the best team in the conference. Through the first two weeks of the 2020 season, those people are looking smart. Ohio State trounced Nebraska in the opening week and followed it up with a relatively comfortable win on the road last week against the team many saw as its stiffest competition, Penn State.
This week the No. 3 Buckeyes play a Rutgers team that has already exceeded expectations in 2020 simply because nobody had any. The Knights came into 2020 riding a 21-game conference losing streak and snapped it in the opener against Michigan State. They enter this game as more than a five-touchdown underdog hopeful of shocking the world.
If the Knights were to pull off the monumental upset on the road, it would be quite the shock. Rutgers has lost all six meetings with Ohio State since joining the Big Ten in 2014 by an average margin of 46.5 points. Their most recent loss, however, came by 35 points and was the closest game of the series.
Greg Schiano may have a trick or two up his sleeve for Saturday's showdown against his former employer. With that in mind, let's take a closer look at the storylines to follow in Columbus before making some expert picks both straight up and against the spread. Odds via William Hill Sportsbook
Ohio State: Considering that the Buckeyes beat Penn State last week, and Michigan lost to Michigan State, it's beginning to look as though the only threats remaining to the Buckeyes this season are themselves and the pandemic. Considering the abnormal conditions in which Big Ten teams had to prepare for the season and the delayed start, it was natural to think teams would look rusty and out of sorts to start the season. Some have, but Ohio State's come out firing on all cylinders. Justin Fields has only played two games, and he's already solidifying his Heisman candidacy. Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave have established themselves as one of the best receiving tandems in the country, and the Buckeyes defense has shown that, despite departures from last year's squad, it's still one of the more formidable units in the country. Ryan Day inherited a machine from Urban Meyer, and he's fine-tuned it since.
Rutgers: While Greg Schiano wouldn't say it and won't want his team to hear it, the 2020 season already feels like a success for Rutgers. Not just because of the win against Michigan State, though that's a major bonus. No, it's because Rutgers looks like a competent football team again. The program's problem for the last couple of years wasn't that it was losing games; it was how it was losing. It was a football team that didn't look like it belonged on the same field as most of the teams it was facing, both in conference and out. That feeling has already been eliminated. Rutgers might not win another game this season, but based on the way it's playing, you feel like it could. That alone is a significant improvement.
Date: Saturday, Nov. 7 | Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Location: Ohio Stadium -- Columbus, Ohio
TV: Big Ten Network | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Game prediction, picks
As mentioned above, Ohio State's six wins over Rutgers have come by an average of 46.5 points. That might make it seem like taking the Buckeyes against the spread is the obvious play, but I don't roll like that. When I see a massive underdog like this in conference play, I'm taking the underdog. Plus, Rutgers has been an underdog of 35 points or more in the Big Ten four times since the 2014 season. It's covered in three of them. Finally, the fact that Schiano spent a few seasons working alongside Day at Ohio State leads me to believe that the Buckeyes won't want to embarrass Rutgers even if they have the chance to. Pick: Rutgers (+38)
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