Surprisingly, the predictions didn't go so badly last week. Ohio State was in fact able to generate some pressure on Matt McGloin, forcing him into mistakes that he had yet to make this season. Kyle Carter actually did present some matchup problems for the Buckeyes, leading Penn State in catches. Jake Stoneburner, who is now a wide receiver, made a huge play to beat his man on a slant route and take it the distance. However, Ohio State was mostly dominant, and definitely won by more than a field goal. Hopefully that kind of overall performance can continue this week into the Illinois game – and maybe the margin of victory will be even higher against the 2-6 "Fighting" Illini.
1) More young guys getting some run on defense. Nathan Scheelhaase, Reilly O'Toole, and Miles Osei have all gotten some snaps at quarterback because of injury and ineffectiveness for the Illini. Unfortunately for new coach Tim Beckman, all have played about the same – badly. The Illini run a similar spread offense to the Purdues and Indiana's of the world, but do not/cannot execute as well as those other squads can. It looks like it's going to be a long day for Illinois' offense against the Buckeye defensive front, which has improved slowly and steadily this season. Expect to see more of players like Camren Williams (if he's out of the doghouse for last week's blown assignment on that blocked punt), Noah Spence, Adolphus Washington, Tommy Schutt, etc. By the fourth quarter, I expect the Buckeyes to have put the game out of reach, and this will allow us to see what, if anything, Luke Fickell has to work with for the foreseeable future.
2) Rod Smith will get the most carries he has had in any game. I think Rod Smith is really coming along for Urban Meyer. Meyer appears to trust him much more and he has not fumbled since the Indiana game. Smith has not fumbled with defensive contact since the UCF game. He did have the ball ripped out in the Penn State game, but he was down and had been so for over two seconds. The most carries Smith has had this year is six. I think Urban will have Rod Smith be the feature back for more than one series this game especially with Carlos Hyde being continually nicked up and Jordan Hall possibly headed for a medical redshirt.
3) Michael Thomas will make a big play. The freshman looks like he's ready to break out if he could just get the catches. At present, he is stuck behind Corey Brown and Devin Smith – and honestly, that's not surprising. Smith and Brown are excellent players, and Thomas is just the next in line. However, I think Thomas has shown some flashes and this will be the game where he takes one to the house. I think Thomas is already a better player at this stage of his young career than Evan Spencer and is ready for an increased role in the offense.
4) Ben Buchanan will have fewer adventures this game. Urban Meyer is trying too hard. There, I said it. Three blocked punts in one season is ridiculous and should not happen at Ohio State. Especially when their head coach is a stickler for good special teams. At some point, it has to get fixed. Illinois has some extremely talented players on defense, but unfortunately not much depth for special teams. I think Camren Williams will be removed from the job of personal punt protection and a more veteran player inserted at that spot. Who that will be, I couldn't say, perhaps Adam Homan will be placed on that job. I expect no dumb rugby punts and a quicker release on punts from Buchanan.
5) Braxton Miller will have a 60% completion percentage. The Illini defense has talented good players in its front seven (Michael Buchanan and Akeem Spence come immediately to mind), but their secondary, though strong to this point, might be ripe for the picking. While they've looked good so far, they might not have the horses in the back end to keep up with Corey Brown and the gang. This will help Miller, as he will first look to exploit the cushions the Illini defenders may well provide Ohio State's fast receivers. I think we'll see him do better than 7-for-19 this week.
Lastly, shout out to Tom Fornelli and the rest of the gang over at The Champaign Room, SB Nation's newly minted Illinois blog. Any Illini fans and Buckeye fans are of course welcome to chime in with your thoughts on the game below as well.