A grade card on Ohio State’s 52-14 win over Illinois, a game in which, to use the words of Mike Hart, OSU looked like the big brother and the Illini definitely played the role of little brother.
Ohio State’s first-team offense scored the first six times it had the ball and gave the Buckeyes a 38-0 lead with seven minutes left in the first half. OSU had 358 yards total offense in the first half and finished with 543 yards overall.
OSU’s second-team offense played the last six minutes of the first half and all but two series in the second half. A fumble by second-team quarterback Dwayne Haskins that produced Illinois’ first touchdown brought the first team back for those two series.
J.T. Barrett threw two touchdown passes, No. 100 and No. 101 of his career, in his final home game and became the all-time Ohio State leader in rushing yards by a quarterback. With a hard rain falling during much of the game, and Michigan watching carefully, Ohio State kept the passing game simple and relied heavily on its running game.
For the second game in a row, Mike Weber looked like a running back worthy of the recruiting battle OSU and Michigan fought to sign him in 2014. He has never looked as fast as he has the last two games. And his 43-yard touchdown run was his third carry of more than 40 yards in the last two weeks after having only one of more than 20 yards the rest of the season.
Illinois started true freshmen at one guard, one tackle, center and tight end and things went just as you would expect when the young ones had to contend with Sam Hubbard, Tyquan Lewis, Nick Bosa, Jalyn Holmes and the rest of Ohio State’s defensive linemen.
Illinois had only 105 yards total offense. And while Ohio State had just two sacks, both by Jonathon Cooper, its defensive line made life miserable for quarterback Chayce Crouch (4 of 14 for 16 yards) even without knocking him down often. Similarly, the defensive backfield shut down Illinois’ receivers without an interception.
If there had been a prize for versatility, linebacker Chris Worley would have won it. He played his third different linebacker position in the last three games on Saturday.
Special teams: A-
Other than one kickoff that went out of bounds, OSU’s special teams had a solid effort.
Punter Drue Chrisman averaged 46.3 yards per attempt. Illinois’ only punt return was for one yard. Jeffrey Okudah recovered an Illinois fumble on a punt return to set up Ohio State’s first touchdown of the second half.
It’s a small sample and one of the games was Saturday against the worst team on Ohio State’s schedule, but in the last two games Ohio State’s offensive line and its running backs have dominated Michigan State and Illinois.
That ground game will face a tougher test this Saturday at Michigan, whose defense allows only 261 yards a game overall. OSU has won five games in a row against Michigan, 12 of the last 13 games and 14 of the last 16 games against its traditional rival.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.
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