What I saw: The Ohio State defense continued to create a lot of turnovers, but for the first time since USC, they actually seemed to be getting gashed pretty regularly. Illinois cracked 450 yards offensively, but couldn’t overcome their own mistakes, allowing Ohio State to win a game that really wasn’t as close as the final score, despite getting vastly outgained in total offense.
So if Ohio State didn’t produce as much offense as Illinois, yet still managed to essentially run away with the game, turnovers and field position played a huge role. The defense caused three turnovers, and the special teams earned a safety for the Buckeyes, and got them the ball with 3 yards to go into the endzone on consecutive plays.
What I didn’t see: Illinois moved the ball, but were unable to hold onto it enough, turning the ball over three times and having a punt blocked for a safety. Of course, a lot of the credit there goes to Ohio State’s defense, but without the mistakes, Illinois might have been in this game.
Much passing. Like last week, Ohio State was content to get it done on the ground when they had a big enough lead to protect. They ran 52 times to 10 passes, and still managed to gain 250 yards on the ground.
Who I watched: It should go without saying now:
Pryor – He had a lot of rushing opportunities on this day, and he capitalized, gaining 110 yards on the ground. On the other hand, he didn’t have a lot of passing opportunities, connecting on 6 of his 10 chance with a touchdown.
Beanie – Gets healthier and healthier every week, though he came out of this game banged up at one point. He still ran strong and was probably OSU’s best offensive player in this game, aside from fumbling away an opportunity for Ohio State shortly after he OMG jumped a guy.
Offensive line – The offensive line had one of their best outings of the season, at least against good competition. There were consistent running lanes, though running up the middle was a little hampered, and Illinois’s defensive tackles seemed to be having some success on the interior. Of course, when you have Terrelle Pryor, you can get away with that.
Defense – They gave up a few big plays, but generally succeeded in a bend-not-break philosophy. Runs of 24 yards to Juice and Daniel Dufrene, along with nearly 200 yards passing (in fairly poor conditions) to Juice shows that they’ll give up yards, but not let you score that often. They also did a good job forcing turnovers, with Kurt Coleman picking off a pass and a pair of linebackers each forcing a fumble. The tactics seemed to shift in the second half, which led to much more success against the Illini offense.
What I expect to see next week: This is probably going to be pretty ugly. Michigan just isn’t a good team this year, and Ohio State is. End of story. The biggest question will be whether Tressel decides to run it up or not.
What this can tell us about The Game: Well, considering my prediction above, I don’t think Michigan stands too much of a chance in this game. However, we did learn a couple things (relevant, hopefully) about Ohio State from this game. I’m not sure how many tackles the Buckeyes will be missing against Michigan, though.
First, they are definitely susceptible to the run, especially when there’s an option look mixed in. Michigan has less talent for running that type of offense than does Illinois, but if Brandon Minor is healthy, Michigan should at least be able to move the ball a little bit.
Considering Nick Sheridan will likely start for Michigan, I expect to see something more like the offense against Utah or Northwestern (bad) than against Minnesota (good).