Jeff Svoboda: Teams have definitely brought extra defenders into the box throughout the season in an attempt to keep Miller from breaking off long gains on the ground. The best way to control Miller, given his speed and ability to make people miss in even the tiniest of spaces, is to get him before he can get going, so that extra player in the box can reap good benefits.
Miller still struggles at times making his reads in the option game, which has been one reason the offense has bogged down at times. Even with all the attention paid to him, sometimes it doesn't matter though, as he's able to make that extra guy miss and then be off to the races. He's also dynamic enough to make something happen on third-and-long even if the first two plays don't work. Miller has also been good at times at hitting long passes over the defense, usually on seam routes to the tight ends or streak routes to Devin Smith against one-on-one coverage.
2. Miller deserves the spotlight, but who are some other offensive players to watch this weekend?
JS: In the running game, running backs Carlos Hyde and Rod Smith have been very good. Hyde is a big back who can gain yards after contact on inside zone plays up the middle, and his emergence has taken some of the pressure off of Miller. Smith has had fumbling problems in his career but is very talented and has picked up some big gains the past few weeks despite being used in small doses.
Out wide, the top two wideouts are Corey Brown, who is more a possession type guy, and Devin Smith, who is the primary target going deep. Jake Stoneburner, Nick Vannett and Jeff Heuerman are also bigger targets who can be matchup nightmares on linebackers.
3. By the numbers, the defense hasn't played great this season. Has the unit played better than the stats indicate or is there potential for Illinois to score some points Saturday?
JS: The defense has been interesting to watch. There are some excellent players on it, including linemen John Simon and Johnathan Hankins, linebacker Ryan Shazier and cornerback Bradley Roby. All of them are potential high draft picks and impact players on the field right now. But there have been a few problems so far this year, including giving up big plays. One of the reasons is the team has a bunch of guys who fly to the ball but are not necessarily sure tacklers, so teams have been able to make some guys miss and get big chunks of yards as a result.
The team's linebackers have been very banged up, too, which has led to moving senior fullback Zach Boren to MLB. He's provided some steadiness the past few weeks and truth be told the defense has been pretty darn good the past two games. Teams that spread it out and get the defense moving laterally are still problematic at times for OSU, though.
4. What is the feeling like around Columbus? Is it bittersweet that the team is enjoying such success but can't play in the postseason? Excitement that Meyer has the program pointed back in the direction? Both?
JS: I think a lot of people have pretty much made peace with the postseason ban. There was a lot of anger that Ohio State didn't take a postseason ban last year, and some people still hold that against AD Gene Smith, but who knows what would have happen if things had been handled differently? For the most part, people are just excited about the direction Meyer has the program going. People in Columbus expect excellence, so the inconsistent nature of this team can be frustrating (especially with the defense) but by and large, you can't complain too much about 9-0.
5. Fill in the blank: Ohio State wins if __________.
JS: Well, there's always the caveat that Braxton Miller has to stay healthy during the game, as he's easily the most dynamic player on the field. But if that happens, then OSU should win if they take Illinois seriously. The Illini are obviously struggling, but there is talent on the team, and OSU could be looking ahead to the open week. If OSU shows up, though, the way the Buckeyes are playing, they should be able to win.