Game Week: Illinois

Ohio State survived a huge scare last week at Penn State, and now returns home to face a struggling Illinois squad. With the Buckeyes getting some major disrespect from the playoff committee this week, will Urban Meyer look to pummel the Fighting Illini?

- At first glance, it was easy to predict Ohio State to absolutely demolish Cincinnati this week, I mean Maryland. No, make that Rutgers or Kent State, or whichever MAC quality opponent that shows up in Columbus this week. We've seen this movie before and we know the ending, right?

- With a little more thought, which could prove to be dangerous, I'm going to revise my original 66-7 prediction made just after the Penn State game. I have one reason to rethink that choice, and it's the health of J.T. Barrett. If he were 100%, then I would say it's full speed ahead and man the torpedoes.

- How will getting dissed by the committee affect Ohio State's preparation? Probably not much. I think style points are out of the question now, and the committee showed Monday night they aren't buying the huge wins. Beating the rest of the schedule by six points apiece means more to Ohio State than blowing out more patsies, and losing to Michigan State. They have to win out, and to have any shot at beating the Spartans they need J.T. Barrett as close to 100% as humanly possible.

- I do not see Ohio State taking a lot of chances with Barrett this week, because they won't need to risk him. But the Buckeye offense isn't good enough to score a ton of points with a scaled back offense, so I do not see them scoring 50 this week. I think the plan will be to secure the victory as soon as possible, then turn it over to the defense. I could see J.T. Barrett going to the bench in the third quarter with a 27-7 lead, and then turning it over to Cardale Jones to get the game over without anyone getting hurt.

- There could be a lot of Wildcat this week with Jalin Marshall and Dontre Wilson, and that gives you 4-5-6 yards per play, not 50-60. Once the game is in hand, I expect to see Ohio State pound the football, eat up the clock, and head into the night with another win. Add in poor weather conditions, and I just don't see the track meet type of game we have seen earlier.

- Illinois has also lost the quick strike capability without quarterback Wes Lunt, and they are more of a running team now. They banged heads with Minnesota last week for four quarters, and emerged with the win. They might also prefer to shorten the game, thinking their best chance to win is 18-17 (see Penn State), rather than 56-54. And if I'm Illinois, I would hit Barrett hard as early and as often as possible. Putting him out ups their chances dramatically, and they know that.

- The Ohio State defense just continues to get better, and the best way to attack them is with a pro-style passing attack, but Illinois doesn't have that. I can see Ohio State possibly pitching a shutout this week, or at least keeping the Illini in the 14-17 point range. Illinois might try to play field position on offense, and make Ohio State drive 80 yards in 14 plays to get their scores.

- I can see Ohio State coming out of the blocks quickly and maybe getting up two or three scores by halftime. Then I would expect to see Tressel-ball the rest of the way, as they depend on running the ball and playing defense. When victory is secure, I believe the focus will shift to beating Michigan State, not trying to turn 35 points into 65 points. I expect a very boring second half.

- In the end, I do not see Illinois being able to score much on the Chris Ash defense at all. I do see Ohio State being able to move the football with Barrett limited, but not like they did against Cincinnati or Rutgers. Ohio State might also want to see the kicker in a few pressure situations as well, so you might trade a few sevens for threes. The kicker cannot shank 40-yarders against the Spartans. He might need to hit a few Saturday night to get him in the right mindset.

- Less Barrett, more Cardale and more Wildcat probably chews up the clock and gets the game over quickly. This could also be the time to run Warren Ball and reward him for being a good, loyal soldier. Could also be time for some Curtis Samuel. I see Ohio State at over 250 yards rushing, but under 250 yards passing, which shortens the game.

THE PICK: Ohio State 37 Illinois 14.

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