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Ohio State kept it close to the vest before MSU, Michigan

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The Buckeyes ran on Illinois with relative ease on Saturday. Let's take a look at the tape.

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

The Buckeyes brought their vanilla playbook to Champaign on Saturday, which will give Michigan State and Michigan as little on film as possible.

Out of the 75 plays that they ran, they kept the ball on the ground 50 times, for a tune of 283 yards. Ezekiel Elliott had a typical, complete performance for him as a runner and blocker. J.T. Barrett was also strong on the ground and made plays as a runner and as a decision maker in the read option game.

If there was one complaint from Saturday, it would come from the right tackle position. Chase Farris has struggled throughout the season, but it was magnified against Illinois, and it may only get worse against the more talented Spartan and Wolverine defensive lines. Barrett was pressured nine times and hit seven times during pass attempts, with the majority coming from Farris' edge. It is most likely too late to make a change at the right tackle position, so we may see more 12 personnel and help from an extra blocker on Farris' side.

Here's the breakdown:

J.T. Barrett

Designed runs Dropbacks Completions Incompletions TD pass Scramble Overthrow Underthrow Throwaway
13 25 14 6 1 1 1 1 1
Pressured Sacked Hit during throw Pass break-up Batted at LOS Drops Turnovers TD run Defensive PI
9 0 7 0 1 1 1 1 1

*Tap passes do not count as attempts

  • With the vanilla playbook, the passing game made minimal impact on the day. As I mentioned above, the pressures and hits on Barrett were the main story of the day, which will need to be cleaned up for the upcoming stretch run.
  • We all know Coach Meyer's infatuation with designed quarterback runs in the red zone, but it got a little too predictable at times. Yes, it should not have come down to this play (below) on third down due to the egregious non-touchdown call, but look at the Illinois defense pursing the football. The entire stadium knew where the ball was going and it led to no points on the drive. Mix in some play action in the red zone.
  • Barrett's touchdown pass came on a beautiful fade ball that was perfectly placed in Thomas' hands. Thomas cannot be checked in single coverage and he does a great job of winning contested balls. Barrett recognized Cover 0 on the play and took advantage of it.
  • The interception was not on Barrett. The right side of the line got beat and his arm got hit as he threw the ball. After a missed call on an earlier Elliott fumble, the ball didn't lie and Illinois was quickly rewarded with the football.
  • Barrett was once again put on a masterful performance in the read option game. Below, he read the player and made the right decision. What is great with Barrett is that his reads are never pre-determined and you can always see his eyes on the read defender at the mesh point.

Running backs/ H-backs

Elliott Miller Samuel Dunn
64 38 21 2
  • The nation has finally realized how great of a blocker Ezekiel Elliott is, and it showed with two monster lead blocks on Saturday. One led to a big gain on third down and the other resulted in a Barrett touchdown run. Blocking is mostly about effort and pride, and Elliott shows both with regularity.
  • Elliott got lucky that the referees blew the call on his lost fumble. With how hard Elliott runs, he has to focus on ball security when finishing plays.
  • After Braxton Miller's head violently bounced off the turf against Minnesota, he was held without a carry on Saturday. I personally believe that Meyer wanted to limit his touches and keep him healthy for the upcoming stretch. We did not see him in the Wildcat and I think he will be a big part of the offense against Sparty and Michigan.
  • Curtis Samuel continues to make the most of his limited touches. Right now, his limited touches are a product of the older talent around him, but his time will come (next year).

Wide receivers

  • Michael Thomas made a great play when he held onto the ball while taking a huge hit from the Illinois' safety. It was great to see that the referees reversed that ejection call, which would have been extremely unfair to the safety.
  • As I mentioned, Thomas destroyed single coverage on his touchdown catch. Take advantage of watching Thomas, because his time will be up very soon in Columbus.
  • Jalin Marshall had four catches, but like the majority of the perimeter options, they were asked to do more blocking and run less routes due to the shortened playbook.
  • I expect big things and heavy involvement from 'Zone 6' the remainder of the season.

Tight ends

  • It was nice to see Nick Vannett get rewarded with the first reception of the game, along with two others. Vannett is a reliable pass catcher and he can be an effective weapon, especially in the red zone. Look for more targets to come his way.
  • Marcus Baugh also made his first catch of the season. Like Vannett, Baugh is also a big bodied tight end who has soft hands. I would not expect many more targets for Baugh, but he is more than a capable option.
  • Look for more 12 personnel and more blocking on the right side of the line to help Farris when he struggles. He faces a tough match-up against Michigan State and Coach Harbaugh will try to attack him in two weeks.