GOOD FEELINGS: Yes, the NCAA stuff is draining and deflating, and takes away a lot of joy in being a Buckeye fan. Losing Jim Tressel to an embarrassing scandal is tough. Seeing Michigan seize the upperhand in recruiting hurts. Having so many players in trouble it's hard to track them all is a downer. But through all that junk, Ohio State rolled an undefeated team on the road last Saturday, winning in a way that would put smiles on the faces of both Woody Hayes and Jim Tressel. You can concentrate on the negative aspect of only completing one pass, and how that will impact this offense going forward, but make no mistake: Last Saturday Ohio State kicked some Illini tail in a major way.
Luke vs. Zooker: Score one for the defensive tackle, as Fickell took Zook behind the woodshed and whipped his butt. Ohio State was the more prepared, more confident and far more physical team last Saturday. All that falls on the head coach, and just like he gets blame for what went on in the three losses, he gets the credit for having a squad that had every reason to lie down, not lying down, but hungry to compete. To Luke's credit, his football team has played hard for every play in every game, and that's not a small matter. Now, there are certainly more factors to being a head coach than just getting your team to play hard, but that's number-one on the list, and Fickell gets an A to date in that category.
Lowering the BOOM: I'm more of a hard-liner when it comes to the treatment of the suspended players, but that's another story for another day. Regardless of how anyone might feel about these players returning and immediately being given back their spots, everyone should agree that Dan Herron is one heck of a football player. And he might be the most improved player on this team over the past few years. Boom has transformed himself from an average player to an All-Big Ten performer, and that's pretty amazing. Remember the 30+ carries against USC a few years ago? Or better yet, let's not. There is no doubt he has come a long way from those days, and his ability to find a crease and hit it is a thing that cannot be taught, but must be learned. Are you listening Rod Smith, Carlos Hyde and Jordan Hall? Want to run the football like Boom? Go ask him how he learned the position, and follow his advice. Boom's play helped turn a very good offensive line into a great offensive line last Saturday, and don't think those guys don't notice. This is a player they used to get so mad at for missing holes a few years ago, but now they love blocking for the man. Hopefully, the running game continues to produce at a high level, and Boom is a big key to that happening.
Offensive philosophy: To the victor go the spoils, and last Saturday Jim Bollman was the victor, so props to him and his offensive philosophy. If you have no passing game, and they certainly do not, you'd better run it to death. And they did vs. Illinois, and this conference is so bad that they might be able to win a few more games without passing the football, like against Indiana and Purdue. Will they beat Wisconsin completing one pass? Not a chance, and the good thing is they have two weeks to at least become average to below-average throwing the football. Can this staff get Braxton Miller up to that level? Stay tuned.
Jim Heacock returns: The old d-ball coach might have taken a few licks against Nebraska, but he returned with a vengeance last week. No surprise that Heacock would have his group playing at an A+ level after that disappointment, and it's too bad he didn't get the shutout. He remains one of the best in the business, and proves that last week was a blip on the radar, not a trend.
Simon and Hankins: A law firm? Book publishers? How about two of the top defensive linemen in the conference? Other than the Jerrel Worthy tail-kicking of Ohio State, it's hard to imagine defensive linemen playing any better than these two did against Illinois. Johnny Simon is so much fun to watch, and for the old-timers: remember Nick Bounamici, a wild-man who was all over the field and made a ton of tackles. Hankins is building an NFL resume, plain and simple. They love big-bodied athletes like Johnathan Hankins, Bank That.
Linebackers were better: This group tackled well against Illinois, and dropped better into coverage this time as well. Etienne Sabino rebounded from a poor game against Nebraska to post solid numbers, and no matter what position you list him playing, Tyler Moeller was very impressive against Illinois. Overall, a nice, solid performance from this group.
DB's were almost perfect: Travis Howard had his best game of the year, while Bradley Roby always brings his best game and did once again. Christian Bryant and C.J. Barnett covered well and stoned ballcarriers. You can just see the improvement weekly in this group.
OFFENSIVE LINE KUDOS: If these guys didn't play as well as they did there would not be a paragraph about Boom Herron, Bank That. In fact, had this group been out-played by their opponents that game might have ended 0-0. J.B. Shugarts seemed to stand out with his quickness off the ball and punishing drive blocks, but all five were outstanding. Mike Adams, along with the running of Herron, helps turn a very good group into a great group. And their jobs are made so much harder by the absence of any type of passing threat. One can only imagine the credit they would get nationally if they played in a modern offense, where playmakers were used to the fullest. One can dream.
WIDE RECEIVERS: Looked good in their uniforms. Nice wristbands. Great looking socks and shoes.
Where are they headed as a team? One thing they have established is that they will play at 100% every week, and that is now a given. Is their best good enough to beat Wisconsin? Do we know that answer today? Can they get much better over the next two weeks? What if they beat Wisconsin? What if they lose to Wisconsin? Still a lot of unanswered questions at this point of the season. For sure, the win over Illinois was a must to even have questions left to be answered, for a loss last week would have ended the season for all intents and purposes. This team should feel good about what they did last week, take a few days and get away from football, and come back recharged and ready to go. For the coaching staff, they must find a way to get some measure of a passing game installed over the next two weeks, and that will be a tall order for this group. But, they cannot beat Wisconsin using the Illinois blueprint. BANK THAT.