The Battle for the Illibuck: Players to Watch Week 11

The Buckeyes are right in the middle of a fight for a spot in the national title game, and they have to be playing their best football in November.  The Buckeyes seem to be hitting stride, while the Illini are still trying to find their identity under second year coach Tim Beckman.  So who will take the Illibuck home?  Here are a few players who will have an impact on that result.

Illinois

Nathan Scheelhaase, Quarterback #2- For all of the struggles this Illinois team has been having, Scheelhaase has kept them in a few contests with his outstanding play.  The injury bug has plagued Scheelhaase for a lot of his career, but according to him, his success this year is due to improved mechanics and improved health.  The new system that offensive coordinator Bill Cubit has given Scheelhaase has made Scheelhaase feel more comfortable, which has led to Scheelhaase being on pace for career highs in yards passing, yards per pass attempt, completion percentage, and touchdown passes.  Scheelhaase is a true dual threat quarterback.  His accuracy and arm strength grade out fairly well, however, it is his average decision making that has led to him being on pace for a  career high in interceptions this year.  While Scheelhaase is a dual threat, he is a pass first quarterback almost to a fault, as he has already been sacked 19 times this season.  He has been intercepted in seven out of nine games this year so the Buckeyes should have an opportunity to force one or two turnovers this game.  Scheelhaase will have to consistently make good decisions and use his legs in order to keep this Buckeye defense from pinning their ears back against the Illini offense.

Steve Hull, Wide Receiver #9-  Hull is a big time receiver that Scheelhaase has relied upon all year.  Hull was very impressive against Wisconsin reeling in 6 catches for 105 yards, and was a freak last week against Indiana reeling in 9 catches for 224 yards and two touchdowns.  Hull is deceptively fast.  He is 6’2 200 pounds and runs a 4.45 40.  That speed helps him to get behind any defense, and if the Buckeye secondary has any lapse in coverage Scheelhaase and Hull will bust it wide open.  Hull is averaging 20 yards per catch, so the Buckeyes will need to ensure they keep #9 in front of them at all times.

Jonathan Brown, Outside Linebacker #45-  As awful as the Illini defense is, Brown is a stud.  88 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 1 interception, and 1 fumble forced.  He reminds me a lot of Khalil Mack.  He’s a very productive linebacker who has his nose in on every play.  With his 88 tackles, 45 of those are assisted tackles which lets you know that he will always be around the ball.  He is a very good blitzer, and also a good pass rusher with his hand in the ground.  Brown racked up 17 tackles against Ohio State in 2011 and I expect him to be visible Saturday attempting to slow down this OSU offense.

V’Angelo Bentley, Kick Return #2-  Coach Meyer has not been pleased with the recent play of his kick coverage, and this week they will have to be on top of their game.  Bentley is arguably the best kick returner in the country.  He averages 25 yards per kick return, 16 yards per punt return, and already has a kick return for a touchdown this year.  He is dangerous, and if the Illini want to pose an upset bid Bentley will need to provide a couple of big plays for the Illini that will provide either points, or good field position for Scheelhaase to start the offense.

Ohio State

Noah Spence-  Spence is having an All Big Ten type of season.  He’s been absolutely dominant this year and has really been making his presence felt since Fickell has moved him out of the Viper role, and made him more of a defensive end not a hybrid linebacker.  Illinois’ starting left tackle has been ruled out of Saturday’s contest due to injury, so Illinois will have to throw a freshman out to block one of the nations best in Spence.  Expect Spence to have another huge game as Illinois struggles to run the ball, and Illinois will most likely be playing catch up the majority of the day which will force them to throw early and often.

Ezekiel Elliott- I really like Elliott in this game against an awful run defense.  The coaches seem to be sprinkling him in to the offense more and more early on in games.  With an Illini defense that is allowing 240 yards per rush, expect Hyde to take care of his business early on and pave the way for Elliott to come in and rack up a lot of yards.  I think this kid is the next superstar for Ohio State and will show that this game.  Elliott will rush for 80-100 yards this week, mark it down.

Braxton Miller-  Miller could have a freakishly good game this week if the coaches were to let him loose, but I would expect a pretty easy game for him.  He’ll probably throw for a few scores and run for one or two more.  This week could be a good opportunity for Braxton to break the 300 yard mark in passing, something that has eluded him even against teams like Purdue.  If the Buckeyes take care of business Miller will probably sit by half time, and still manage 3 or 4 total touchdowns with about 300-350 yards of total offense.  Enjoy a lot of Kenny G and Cardale Jones in this one.

Comments

  1. Seems like Scheelhaase has been there FOREVER. Illinois has some really talented/athletically gifted players and a fertile recruiting base. How are the consistently this bad?

    • That is a great question. Arthur Brown was saying in the Chicago Tribune how on film one week their defense does their job and the next week they look lost. Seems to be a problem of new coaching staff mixed with young players. I hope they’re better next year they’ve got some quality kids on that team.

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