Under head coach Chris Ash, Rutgers went 2-10 in 2016, and then 4-8 last year.
It's only one game, but their opener last weekend suggests the team's improvement under the former Buckeye assistant is continuing.
The Scarlet Knights beat Texas State (led by fellow former Ohio State assistant Everett Withers) 35-7. It was their biggest win over an FBS opponent since 2009.
A defense that returned eight starters held Texas State to one third-down conversion on 13 attempts. They gave up fewer yards (169) than any other other Big Ten defense in week one. They racked up 11 tackles for loss.
Pacing that defense was Elorm Lumor with a blocked field goal, a sack, two TFLs, and a recovered fumble.
However, they also suffered a couple injuries. Freshman defensive lineman Tijuan Mason fractured his leg. On top of that...
The offense is now led by John McNulty. He was a member of the Scarlet Knights staff from 2004-2008, and was the team's offensive coordinator in 2007-2008 under then Rutgers head coach, now Buckeye assistant Greg Schiano.
He then left for the NFL and, most recently, was working with the Chargers tight ends.
He's helped running back Raheem Blackshear emerge. Against Texas State, the sophomore had as many catches (7) as he had all of last year. He had both a receiving and rushing touchdown. Teammates called him their "Swiss Army knife," which is--of course--the go-to metaphor in athletics for versatility. (One day maybe someone will say a player accomplished "as much as a parent of twins.")
Artur Sitkowski became just the team's third true freshman to start in an opener since World War II, and it showed in good ways and bad.
To be talented enough to--as a freshman--unseat team captain Gio Rescigno says something. To throw for 205 yards, becoming the first Rutgers signal caller to break the 200-yard mark since November 26, 2016 says something. To throw for three interceptions against a Texas State squad that literally had zero picks the year before says something as well.
"They're a lot faster," said Ohio State defensive lineman Robert Landers of the Scarlet Knights. "Their style of play really hasn't changed, but you can tell they're a lot more comfortable in the system that they're running...so it'll be a good game."
Ohio State faces Rutgers at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.
- If Columbus, Ohio native and redshirt freshman Brendan Bordner does not make the Rutgers travel roster (quite possible, as he does not appear in the participation report for the Texas State game), it will be the second week in a row that Ohio State's opponent will not have one player from Ohio on the field. OSU has four players (Jordan Fuller, Chris Chugunov, Javontae Jean-Baptiste, and Tyler Friday) from New Jersey.
- Rutgers has never held Ohio State to fewer than 49 points (2016), nor scored more than 17 (2015).
- A win for the Buckeyes Saturday will be the 900th in team history.