Ohio State-Illinois: In Depth Recap

The Buckeyes wiped the floor from start to finish with an Illinois team that at times looked like an FCS team on Saturday night. The Illini came out moving the ball very efficiently in their up tempo offense until Darron Lee intercepted quarterback Reilly O’Toole off a deflection. J.T. Barrett looked extremely hesitant to put weight on his sprained MCL in the first couple of drives leading to him over throwing several passes. Luckily for Barrett, freshman Curtis Samuel was more than happy to pick up the yardage and scores on the ground for the Buckeyes.

Once Barrett found Devin Smith on a 32 yard touchdown pass to close out the first he looked much more comfortable from then on. His comfort level was key for the Buckeyes success in this game since it was very evident that Coach Herman and Meyer wanted to put a heavy emphasis on the passing game. This would be due to the visit next week to East Lansing. Last year the Buckeye receivers were man handled and looked pedestrian in the loss to the Spartans.

Also last week, the offensive line looked shaky in pass protection. Both areas of concern seemed to be worked out for the most part against the Illini. Barrett finished the first half going 15 of 24 for 167 yards and two touchdowns. The Buckeyes took their 31-0 lead in to half time and Cardale Jones took over at QB in the second half.

Jones looked as competent as he usually does for Ohio State. Meaning, in my opinion, if Barrett goes down next week versus Sparty Ohio State will most likely lose. Jones is competent versus Illinois but envisioning him versus Michigan State or any real defense made me lose an extreme amount of confidence in this team. Rant and rave about his arm and size all you want but his decision making is average, he does not process information nearly as fast as Barrett, and he relies more on his legs than Miller did.

As for the defense, they look to be coming in to their own. Ash seems to be finding a really good rhythm with his blitz calls, coverages, and substitutions. They have a legitimate star in Joey Bosa who could go down as one of the top 5 defensive players in Buckeye history if he maintains this excellent play.

Personally, as good of a game Joey Bosa had, I thought Darron Lee and Steve Miller played even better. Maybe that has more to do with expectation levels from them, but Lee should be a first team all Big Ten linebacker in my opinion. He is a jack of all trades and Ash is really beginning to use this kid to terrorize defenses in every shape and form.

Speaking of terrorizing, Steve Miller is beginning to do just that regardless of who the Buckeyes are playing. Replacing Noah Spence was never going to be easy and frankly Miller hasn’t done that at all. But what Miller has done is found his role in this defensive line and he has embraced it. He seems to be the relentless worker on this defense and is dedicated to do anything his coaches need him to do. Whether it is run defense, pass rush, or chase down screens, Miller has been doing it all lately. Hats off to him and Coach Johnson for putting in the hard work to round off this dangerous defensive line.

The secondary deserves their fair share of love as well. The success of Ash’s secondaries starts with strong safety play and the Buckeyes got just that from Powell and Bell Saturday night. Both players have been asked to do the large majority of their learning on the job and they have done very well. Saturday night both players excelled in coverage and are beginning to round out in to a very nice safety duo.

As for the corners, Grant, Apple, and Reeves, they have their moments when they can give you a scare with how aggressive they are, but the more experience they get the wiser they seem to be with when and where to use that aggressiveness. Reeves fits perfectly in that nickel corner spot, Apples length bothers any receiver he faces, and Grant is a very athletic and aggressive corner who has a big upside if he keeps improving. I really think these corners had a pretty good night on Saturday and have had pretty good games in recent weeks.

It was also key to see Meyer’s special teams take care of business Saturday night. Kicker Sean Nuernberger was able to go 2/2 which could be key if the game next Saturday comes down to the wire. The kick coverage team was also able to swallow up one of the best returners in the country Saturday night which should be even more of a confidence builder after an O.K. performance versus Penn State.

Saturday seemed to be the perfect dose of medicine for this young team heading in to the dog fight in East Lansing. The Buckeyes were able to shore up offensive line issues, get players back from injury some confidence and keep them healthy, get depth players play time, and come out with a lot of confidence. The Buckeyes had a character building win at Penn State last week, this week was a confidence building week, next week is the biggest game of this team’s young career. They look ready and so are we here at MOTSAG. Keep an eye out for all of our previews and build up to the game this Saturday in East Lansing.

Go Bucks! Beat Sparty!

Comments

  1. Great recap as always, Ronnie. Barrett had me nervous all game long, looking very tentative and not making his decisions to run as succinctly as he has in the past. The throws got better as the game went on and he made a couple great throws, but he didn’t instill 100% confidence for me.

    I also worry that MSU’s D-line will trend more toward Penn State-level of talent and not Illinois’. The OL has to play out of its mind. I think it can, and I think our defense will keep us in the game, but man I’d feel a lot better if JT looked sharp from start to finish.

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