The Scarlet Knights were never going to contend against the fourth-ranked Ohio State, however many were expecting a closer game than the 52-3 beatdown Rutgers suffered at the hands of the Buckeyes.
Rutgers not only took a hit in the standings, but many players left the Horseshoe with different bumps and bruises. Artur Sitkowski took a big hit from the projected top pick in 2019’s NFL draft Nick Bosa and did not return to the game. Earlier this week, Sitkowski was classified as day-to-day, but videos have since surfaced of Sitkowski throwing in practice and is seems to be ready to go this weekend in Kansas.
This week’s game in Lawrence, Kansas is a much different matchup than last week’s contest in Columbus.
Kansas is 1-1 to start the season and outscoring opponents 54-33 during that span, averaging 308 yards per game. Early in the 2018 season, the Jayhawks have four interceptions and held their opponents to an average of 305 yards per game.
The Jayhawks are slightly better at defending the running game than the passing game. Kansas has kept their opponent to just under 160 yards per game on the ground on average, compared to giving up an average 145 yards per game in the air.
That matchup will be key for the Jayhawks. Rutgers has shown that it is more comfortable running the ball quite frequently in this young season, and is less likely to throw the ball down field. With Sitkowski taking the big hits last weekend and the injury to his throwing arm, it is unlikely that the Scarlet Knights will take a lot of risks this weekend on the road, and will more likely hand the ball off to Raheem Blackshear and Isaih Pacheco.
The offensive line was lacking the explosiveness required to protect the quarterback against the much larger Buckeyes, and will matchup much better against the Jayhawks this weekend in Lawrence.
The Rutgers defense is also banged up, as it becomes more and more likely that star cornerback Blessaun Austin will need his second knee surgery in as many years. Kansas has been operating on a quarterback-by-committee basis two games into the season, with Peyton Bender taking most of the snaps for the Jayhawks.
Kansas is more likely to try and throw the ball, choosing to do 54 percent of the time. The Scarlet Knights have only forced 18 incompletions this season, but have kept their opponents at an average 7.8 yards per catch. If Rutgers can limit the big passes down field and put pressure on the quarterback, it will be able to overpower the slightly dormant Jayhawk offensive.
Overall, this is an important game for the Scarlet Knights. Now sitting at 1-1, the next six games will determine Rutgers’ bowl hopes. With a very back-heavy schedule, week three against Kansas has now become a must win for the Scarlet Knights.
Prediction: Rutgers 27, Kansas 21
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