Ohio State vs. Illinois: 10 Things We Learned in Buckeyes' Win
The No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes tied a school record 22-game winning streak on Saturday when they beat the Illinois Fighting Illini 60-35.
It was a big win for the Buckeyes (10-0), who stayed alive in the BCS title race—it just wasn't pretty.
The Fighting Illini (3-7) gave a surging Ohio State defense fits and was one play away in the fourth quarter from putting the Buckeyes on upset alert.
In the end, Ohio State proved to be too much for Illinois. Here's what we learned from the Buckeyes' 25-point victory.
Ohio State's Defense Is Far from a Finished Product
The Buckeyes came into Saturday's action feeling good after two impressive performances against Penn State and Purdue, and it looked like coordinator Luke Fickell and the defense had turned the corner.
Illinois halted that positive momentum with its surprising offensive performance.
The Illini offense has been decent this year, averaging 425 yards per game (which ranks 55th nationally) under second-year coach Tim Beckman. But Illinois had struggled against the better defensive teams on its schedule, like Michigan State, which held the Illini to just three points.
There were no struggles against Ohio State. Illinois piled up 420 total yards of offense while putting up the most points (35) the Buckeyes have allowed all year.
Ohio State had trouble containing Nathan Scheelhaase and gave up a number of big plays. The Buckeyes will need to make huge strides before next week's matchup with the explosive Indiana Hoosiers.
Illinois Hurt Ohio State's BCS Title Resume
With the number of undefeated teams still remaining, style points are important for the teams like the Buckeyes who aren't ranked in the top two.
Ohio State was impressive offensively, but giving up 35 points to a marginal Illinois team will only enhance the negative perception surrounding the Buckeyes.
It could have been much worse. Ohio State led by just 12 points midway through the fourth quarter, but two late touchdowns helped the Buckeyes at least post a decent margin of victory.
Because of how tight the race is, every game is being looked at very closely. Illinois put up more points than expected, and because of that, Ohio State's BCS resume took a hit.
Carlos Hyde Has Legitimate Breakaway Speed
Carlos Hyde put the exclamation point on Ohio State's performance with two long touchdown runs late in the fourth quarter.
Both of those touchdowns went for more than 50 yards and showcased a breakaway speed that Hyde rarely gets to show off. Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes were just looking to bleed the clock, but Hyde's explosiveness was put on full display.
The 6'0", 235-pound bruiser should have been brought down on both runs, but he used his strength to stay upright and hit the second level.
From there, Hyde turned on the jets and ran away from an Illinois defense that had no chance to catch him.
Carlos Hyde's Suspension Prevented a Historic Season
Carlos Hyde's three-game suspension to start the year, while justified, likely robbed him of a historic season.
His first game back was against Florida A&M, and he played sparingly in the 76-0 rout.
Over the last six games, though, Hyde has been dominant. During that six-game stretch, the senior has run for 906 yards and 11 touchdowns. He has done all that with just 115 carries, meaning he's averaging 7.9 yards per carry.
Projecting those numbers over the course of a 14-game season would have given Hyde a historic senior campaign.
Hyde is still having a phenomenal year, and barring injury, he will become the first running back to run for more than 1,000 yards under Urban Meyer. He's playing like one of the best running backs in the country, which was punctuated by his 272-total-yard, five-touchdown performance against the Illini.
Joey Bosa Is Going to Be a Superstar for Ohio State
Joey Bosa went down with a neck sprain early in the third quarter, which hurt Ohio State's defense in a big way, but the freshman defensive end only needed one half to prove how dominant he can be.
Bosa looked untouchable against the Illini, recording a career-high 2.5 sacks and four total tackles.
His play, coupled with Noah Spence's surge, has been a big reason for Ohio State's improvement on defense. The most impressive thing about Bosa, though, is that this is his first year at the collegiate level. His ceiling keeps raising each and every week.
Bosa now has 4.5 sacks on the season and has emerged as one of Ohio State's best players up front. This freshman's future looks brighter each time he steps on the field.
Corey Brown Is an Underrated Element of This Offense
Corey "Philly" Brown doesn't get as much recognition as he deserves.
After catching a team-high 60 passes for 669 yards last year, Brown has taken a huge step forward this season.
Through 10 games, the senior has hauled in 48 catches for 596 yards and nine touchdowns, all of which are team highs. Brown has been consistent, too, registering a touchdown pass in each of Ohio State's last four games.
He is clearly Braxton Miller's most dependable target, and that showed against Illinois. Brown caught a team-high seven passes, and while it only produced 49 yards, he was a consistently reliable outlet for Miller on a windy day in Memorial Stadium.
Nathan Scheelhaase Came to Play Against Ohio State
Nathan Scheelhaase came into Saturday's play leading the Big Ten with 2,410 passing yards, so it's no secret that the senior signal-caller is talented.
Against Ohio State, Scheelhaase played brilliantly, throwing for 288 yards while running for 46 more to complement three total touchdowns.
Scheelhaase struggled early, throwing two interceptions, one of which was returned by Bradley Roby for a touchdown. But midway through the second quarter, he settled in and gave Ohio State's defense all it could handle.
Ohio State got to him early and often, registering six total sacks, but Scheelhaase evaded pressure enough times to hurt the Buckeyes. Scheelhaase was effective with Illinois' zone-read game, especially near the goal line.
If the defense could have given him any help, Scheelhaase played the kind of game that produces big upsets.
Ohio State's Punt Unit Isn't Perfect
Coming into the Illinois game, only two players had been able to return a punt against Ohio State for a net of three yards.
Illinois' V'Angelo Bentley changed that in a big way.
Bentley, who played his high school football at Cleveland Glenville (Ohio State's biggest in-state recruiting pipeline), took a booming punt from Cameron Johnston and returned it 67 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter.
It was the first score of the day for Illinois, and it was a huge momentum swing, as the Buckeyes had scored the game's first 28 points.
Johnston had a good day punting for the Buckeyes, averaging 57 yards on six punts. Bentley's big return, though, proved that Ohio State's punt unit isn't bulletproof.
The Buckeyes Need to Get Healthy
The Buckeyes came into the day short two starters on defense, as linebackers Curtis Grant and Joshua Perry were injured.
It was revealed during the game that Perry slipped on ice back in Columbus and hit his head, per Lantern Sports, so he didn't make the trip. Grant has been battling back and ankle injuries all week, which kept him off the field.
During the game, Joey Bosa suffered a neck sprain and missed most of the second half. That's three of the top defenders in Ohio State's front seven that missed a lot of action. With those three defenders out, Illinois racked up 21 second-half points.
The Buckeyes need those three healthy for the home stretch, but with Indiana coming to Columbus, Ohio, this Saturday, there will be very little time for healing.
Ohio State's Grip on the No. 3 Spot Is Loosening
The Buckeyes wouldn't have jumped Florida State even if they had won by 70, but their sloppy victory could open the door for Stanford and Baylor.
The margin between Ohio State and No. 4 Stanford and No. 5 Baylor is razor thin. The Buckeyes would likely hold their position ahead of the Cardinal and the Bears if they win out and win impressively. Carlos Hyde's two late touchdown runs helped in regard to style points, but this win wasn't as impressive as many expected.
Will that hurt the Buckeyes in the polls?
Regardless, Ohio State will need to put its foot on the gas pedal down the stretch.
All stats via NCAA.com.
David Regimbal is the Ohio State Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report.