Ohio State Football: Key Players to Watch in Buckeyes' Showdown with Illinois
The Ohio State Buckeyes will look to continue their perfect season against the Illinois Fighting Illini on Saturday.
After another win last week, this time over Penn State, the Buckeyes have a chance to start 10-0 for the first time in five years as they continue to make the case that they are one of the best teams in the nation.
The Illini are on a much different path than their counterparts in this game. Illinois started the season 2-1, but since then the Illini have lost five straight games to give them an abysmal 2-6 record.
Let's take a look at some of the key players to watch in this game.
Braxton Miller, QB
Everything the Buckeyes do offensively runs through their quarterback and this Saturday will be no different.
Miller currently leads the team in both passing and rushing yards, both more than 1,000 yards for the season. As far as scoring touchdowns are concerned, Miller has accounted for 24 of Ohio State's scores this season.
Heisman Trophy, anyone?
Illinois is allowing almost 31 points per game this season, so Miller will have plenty of chances to gain big yardage and put points on the board for his team. Without much resistance, look for Miller to be in and out of the pocket at will, making this a nightmare game for the Illini defensively.
Ryan Shazier, LB
Shazier didn't have such a great start to the 2012 campaign and often looked a bit out of control on the field, but the sophomore linebacker has been coming along nicely in his last two games.
Following a sack of Nittany Lions quarterback, Matt McGloin, Shazier went on to pick off the Penn State signal-caller on the following play, displaying his immense talent in multiple facets of the game last week.
Shazier has played his two best games of the season in successive weeks, with the first coming against Purdue two weeks ago when he notched 13 tackles against the Boilermakers.
Like Miller on offense, the Buckeyes defense is supremely better when Shazier is at his best. Look for the Buckeyes linebacker to use his speed to rush the quarterback and make some plays in the secondary.
Nathan Scheelhaase, QB
Illinois has had a dreadful season on the offensive end, but that lack of success can't be blamed on just one part of their offense. Both the passing and rushing attacks have failed this team during the 2012 season.
Scheelhaase will get the call behind center and is looking to build off what was a solid performance last week in Illinois' loss to Indiana. The Illini signal-caller was 17-for-27 for 176 yards and a touchdown without throwing a single pick in the losing effort.
But Ohio State's defense is far superior to that of Indiana's so this week should be much tougher. Scheelhaase has thrown a total of five picks this season, so he is certainly prone to turning the ball over, especially when faced with the pressure the Buckeyes will bring.
Ohio State must beware of Scheelhaase's athleticism, however. Scheelhaase won't stay stuck in the pocket if there is pressure, so the Buckeyes must look for the Illini quarterback to try and run the ball when given the opportunity.
Donovonn Young, RB
Young is coming off his best game of the season last week after he scorched the Hoosiers for 124 yards on the ground which was a career-high. But as is the case with Scheelhaase, things will be tougher this week for Young.
The Illini running back has great breakaway speed and has the ability to make big plays as evidenced by his season-high run of 52 yards against a tough Penn State defense. Young has also had some success catching the ball out of the backfield this season, but he certainly won't dominate as a receiver.
Young will get the Illini some solid yardage per carry as he averages 4.2 yards per rush. It's just a question of how many times he will get the ball in this game, especially if the Buckeyes jump out to an early lead.
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