“It’s exciting to go on the road. We lose many of the advantages we’ve had for the last four games of the home crowd and our band being with us and the comforts of home, but our guys like challenges and I think they’re anxious to get on the road.”
Jim Tressel on the upcoming Illinois game.
First road game of the season. First time the Buckeyes bust out the whites and leave the comforts of the Shoe as they head to Champaign for a clash with the Chief Illini-Zook (probably the last) and the Illini. Conference play is upon us, week five and about a third of the way through the season. By now we have been able to see several different aspects of the team, some awesome, some good and some definitely that is a recipe for hand wringing and an upset stomach.
– Really could be the last time we face the Zook. Known mostly talented but inconsistent players and underachieving teams. Interestingly he was an Ohio State assistant from 1988-90 and has a 5-4 record against top 5 teams as the Illini head coach. The upset in the Shoe in 2007 being one of them.
– They are breaking in a new OC Petrino (Arkansas dude’s brother) and DC Koenning.
– No more Juice or Arrellious Benn. The offense now is basically one dimensional with experience on the line and at running back but youth at QB and receiver.
– The team is now led by redshirt freshman #2 Nathan Scheelhaase – another Zook dual treat QB. Definitely can make plays with his legs but as a passer…not so much with 3 INTs and only 3 TDs on the year.
– Former QB McGee is now the third receiver (only two catches on the year) . The two leaders in grabs are #11 Fayson and #8 Jenkins who have 20 of the teams 32 catches between them. Jenkins is the big play guy, Fayson the possession guy and at 6’ 215 the senior is a big target that can be a tough matchup for corners.
– #5 Leshoure is still there running the ball as starting RB (how is he only a junior?). Really the best player they have, premier back in Big Ten. 6’3” 230 battering ram style back that is averaging 6.9 yards per carry this season. With an inexperienced QB look for Illinois to go to saddle up their horse and try to grind out yards.
– Line is pretty much a mixed bag. It is anchored by junior #71 Allen who has started 24 games, an All American as a freshman at right tackle and moved to left tackle last year. #66 Hunt is another two year starter at right guard and #78 Palmer is at right tackle – both are seniors. The rest of the line is rounded out by two sophomores #72 Thornton and left guard and #76 Pocic at center. This group does have experience and all are 6’5” 300 or larger. The size alone makes them a formidable run blocking unit (the team was second in the conference in rushing last year) but when it comes to pass blocking….not so much. They have given up five sacks in three games and they don’t even throw that much.
– Defensively the unit is led up front by #97 Nurse who plays a hybrid defensive end / linebacker. They have two athletic 300 pounders in the middle in #93 Liuget and #94 Spence. Speed from the other edge comes from sophomore #85 Mericlus. Linebackers are led by the talented team leading tackler #2 Wilson in the middle. On either side are #38 Thomas and #18 Bussey who have good size and athleticism. The secondary has lost starters Hawthorne (fracture) and Gully (Achilles) to injury. Now led by #31 Bellamy who is decent but not a lockdown corner. The other corner is a former running back #26 Green, a sophomore that is just beginning to develop into the position. The safeties are two juniors – hard hitting JUCO transfer #9 Henry and #3 Wilson.
As for the Bucks this week – when you have outscored your opponents 197-58 so far this year the only thing that really needs to happen it to come out and take care of business just like you have been doing. I don’t see a freshman QB being an issue for our defense (even our backup corners). Nor do I think Leshoure gets going considering the comments from Heyward and Rolle after EMU – the Silver Bullets will come out firing with something to prove. Watch.
On offense it would be great to see us get some traction running the ball with someone other than Pryor. Yes – he is the ultimate weapon and if you have a gun shoot it but he is also the undeniable leader of the team and cannot take unnecessary shots. Especially with the bevy of talent in the backfield to compliment him. I will give Adams a pass on the ole block due to the separated shoulder, but we still need to serve notice at some point that when push comes to shove our line can push and shove their way to a successful running game. Whether it is Saine, Boom, Hall, Berry or Hyde it doesn’t matter – the big dudes up front have to get it done.
Everyone knows what to expect from Pryor put nobody can predict the type of awesomeness that will be on display. He still can get better but even right now there are few that are on his level as an offensive weapon. With Stoneburner out this week it will be interesting to see who steps up for the third receiver – could be a WR, Fragel at TE or even Saine.
Defensively it really matches up well for the strength of our front seven taking on a primarily running team. Even with the banged up secondary I don’t look for an average passing redshirt freshman and unproven wide receivers to light it up through the air.
The Illini always play us tough, some of our best teams during the Tressel era have had tight games against the Zookers – 24-21 in ’01, 23-16 (OT) in ’02, 17-10 in ’06 and 30-20 in ’08.. But in the end I think this time we just have too much firepower.
Ohio State – 42
Illinois – 13