No. 4 Ohio State scored 77 points in rolling over out-manned Oregon State last week, while suspended coach Urban Meyer watched the game on TV from home.
The Buckeyes probably will do OK without him this week, too, when Big Ten bottom-dweller Rutgers comes to town.
The coach also will miss Saturday’s clash at Ohio Stadium. He’s serving the second of a three-game suspension for mismanaging domestic-abuse allegations and other misconduct by former assistant Zach Smith.
Co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Ryan Day will coach from the sideline as he did last week when the Buckeyes piled up 721 offensive yards and quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. landed Big Ten offensive player of the week honors in his first start.
Rutgers, in its third year under former Ohio State assistant Chris Ash, is recruiting and playing better. But competing in the rugged Big Ten East is still a challenge. The Scarlet Knights got a confidence-boosting win last week over Texas State, a not-very-good FBS team. But as Ash says, Ohio State “is a different animal.”
“The team is built exactly like you would want to build a team,” Ash said. “Four years in a row, Rutgers and Ohio State have played and in four years it hasn’t been much of a game.”
The Buckeyes have outscored Rutgers 114-0 in the last two years and are five-touchdown favorites this time.
Some other things to watch in Saturday’s game:
MEYER BACK AT PRACTICE
Although he’ll miss the next two games, Meyer was back at practice on Tuesday for the first time this season.
Under the terms of his suspension by the university, Meyer can oversee practice and attend meetings at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. But he can’t be with the team from midnight Friday to midnight Saturday for the next two games.
Players said this week it was business-as-usual when he returned, with no discussion of recent off-the-field issues.
“It felt good,” running back Mike Weber said. “It was like he never left, really.”
HOLES IN THE DEFENSE
The Buckeyes allowed some alarming big plays against Oregon State, including scoring runs of 80 and 78 yards and a 49-yard TD pass. The absence of starting safety Jordan Fuller, who tweaked a hamstring earlier in the week, may have contributed to that. He’s expected to play this week.
Defensive coordinator Greg Schiano noted some poor tackling and other problems.
“There was a lot of good stuff on the tape, so I wasn’t disappointed other than there were some plays I was disappointed in,” said Schiano, the former Rutgers coach. “There was 82 percent of the offense (that) came from seven plays — 82 percent of their production. We can’t allow that.”
SPOTLIGHT ON YOUNG PLAYERS
Rutgers had 19 players who got their first college football action last week, including nine true freshmen.
Two true freshmen started for the Scarlet Knights — tight end Daevon Robinson and quarterback Arthur Sitkowski , who finished 20 for 30 for 205 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions.
Sophomore running back Raheem Blackshear got his first start and made the most of it. He rushed for 62 yards and a touchdown and caught seven passes for 56 yards and another score.
Expect to see Ohio State tailbacks Weber and J.K. Dobbins split carries again.
That worked out for the Buckeyes last week and especially for Weber, who had a career-high 186 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries. He scored again on a shovel pass from Dwayne Haskins Jr. that essentially was another run from scrimmage.
Dobbins ran 15 times for 74 yards.
“You’ve got two guys going there that are really, really talented,” Day said. “Sometimes, it is the way that the play was blocked, you know, where we got Mike to the safety a couple of times. But Mike made those plays count.”
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