You know the old expression, whatever doesn't kill me makes me stronger?
Ohio State must be feeling about there psychologically after Saturday's 17-7 upset at No. 16 Illinois. With a new head coach and the remnants of a horrible offseason almost wiped away from the mind of the Horseshoe faithful, maybe this can be the time for the Buckeyes to show the country that their dominance was never a fluke.
True, the school had to deal with scandals that, quite frankly, could have destroyed their football program, but on Saturday, THE Ohio State took the Fightin' Illini to school: old school. With a stout defense and a consistent ground game, led by senior RB Dan Herron, the Buckeyes stunned the Champaign, Ill. crowd and handed previously-unbeaten Illinois their first loss of the year.
With the win, Ohio State improves to a 4-3 record (1-2 Big Ten), but is out of the top 25 this week. Their three losses—at Miami and No. 14 Nebraska, at home vs. Michigan State—are against good teams, and with Saturday's big win at Illinois, Ohio State could find themselves back in the rankings.
The Buckeyes have many problems, none more disappointing than the lack of a solid QB. Interim head coach Luke Fickell kept the ball away from freshman quarterback Braxton Miller, instead opting to rush Herron a career-high 23 times for 114 yards and two touchdowns. Consistency in the offensive playbook is a great thing, but not if the offense becomes so one-dimensional that opposing defenses have an immediate competitive edge.
On the other hand, the Buckeyes might be better off on defense anyway.
Against the 20th best rushing attack in the nation, Ohio State limited the Illini to just 116 rushing yards—about half their seasonal average—while forcing three turnovers.
For Ohio State, the only way to crack back into the top 25 is a simple one: they need to beat Wisconsin.
It's the one pre-scandal blemish of the 2010 season. Their 31-18 loss in Madison last year was the one hiccup for an Ohio State team destined for a victory in the Sugar Bowl (you know, before it all came crumbling down).
But in 2011, the Buckeyes find themselves on the outside of the Top 25 looking in, but they have the talent to make it back. The Wisconsin matchup on Oct. 29 is at home, and the Buckeyes get a much-needed week off to rest before the once-heavyweight matchup.
After Ohio State does battle against the Badgers, it's home against Indiana (who's terrible this year), at Purdue (whose upcoming schedule is home vs Illinois, at Michigan and at Wisconsin, then Ohio State), and the final two matchups against Penn State and at Michigan.
For the Buckeyes to start thinking about the future and salvage their position as one of the dominant college football programs in the country, they need to keep their momentum, find a quarterback, rest the defense and beat Wisconsin. It's simple.