PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) J.T. Barrett threw three touchdown passes and ran for two scores in his first start of the season, leading No. 1 Ohio State to a 49-7 victory against Rutgers on Saturday night and ensuring at least two weeks of quarterback stability for the Buckeyes.
Ohio State (8-0, 4-0 Big Ten) extended its winning streak to 21 games, best in the nation, and heads into its off week with no doubt who the starting QB will be when Minnesota comes to Columbus on Nov. 7.
It will be a nice change for coach Urban Meyer, who started Cardale Jones in the first seven games of the season before making the switch to Barrett this week. Facing one of the worst defenses in the Big Ten, Barrett was near flawless. He was 14 for 18 for 223 yards and ran for 101 yards on 13 carries. Jones entered in the fourth quarter when the score was 49-0.
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Rutgers (3-4, 1-3) missed a short field goal on its first possession and didn't get past the Ohio State 40 again until late in the fourth quarter.
The next phase of Ohio State's long-running quarterback soap opera had Barrett as the leading man for the Buckeyes. Meyer made the expected switch this week after the Big Ten player of the year had lost a preseason competition to Jones, who led the Buckeyes to the national championship after Barrett broke his ankle against Michigan last year.
Jones was inconsistent as a starter, but not until the last two games when Barrett accounted for seven touchdowns in relief did he really make a case to reclaim the job.
Barrett gives the Buckeyes more of a running threat and a better ball-handler on their zone-read plays. He scooted 39 yards with a keeper on his first carry of the game and several times had Rutgers defenders grabbing at Buckeyes who did not have the ball.
Ohio State was run-heavy much of the first half, keeping it on the ground on 16 of its first 20 plays.
Barrett doesn't have the powerful arm that Jones brings to the offense, but he is no liability in the passing game. When the Buckeyes did open it up, they found some big plays against Rutgers' injury depleted secondary. Barrett hooked up with Michael Thomas on short throw that turned into a 50-yard touchdown to make it 14-0 in the second quarter.
Barrett was a little short on a deep sideline throw to Braxton Miller, but the quarterback-turned receiver made a juggling 45-yard grab. A couple plays later, Barrett scooted in from a yard and it was 21-0.
The deep ball looked better from Barrett next time. He found Curtis Samuel, who grew up in nearby Brooklyn, in the end zone for a 30-yard TD to make it 28-0 less than two minutes into the second half.
The Buckeyes first trip ever to Rutgers drew a sellout crowd of 53,111 at High Point Solutions Stadium and their scarlet-clad fans blended in nicely with the Rutgers fans - until a corner of the stadium broke into an ''O-H! I-O!'' chant. By the end, they were pretty much the only ones left.
Barrett made it 35-0 with his second touchdown run and a 1-yard touch-pass to Jalin Marshall made it 42-0 with 4:34 left in the third quarter.
It was the first time since 2002 the Scarlet Knights hosted the No. 1 team in the country and the first time as a member of the Big Ten. The prime time, nationally televised game was exactly what Rutgers hoped for when it joined the Big Ten a couple years ago. The move has no doubt been good for the bottom line, but on the football field the Scarlet Knights are still running a deficit against the Big Ten's best.
Ohio State has outscored 105-24 the past two seasons.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP
AP college football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org