The commentators couldn't help themselves: the word they used most often to describe the Ohio State football team during Saturday's 48-3 rout of Michigan State was angry.
Truly, the Buckeyes had every right to be angry, a week removed from the most embarrassing loss of the Urban Meyer era in Columbus. They didn't just lose to Iowa on one or two bad calls or fluky plays; they got absolutely trounced. So they returned to Columbus angry, and the visiting Spartans got both barrels.
The bulk of that anger worked itself out in the run game. Mike Weber had arguably his best day as a Buckeye, finding the end zone twice, including at the end of an 82-yard bat-out-of-hell scamper, while J.K. Dobbins had his face taken off the proverbial milk carton and went for 144 all-purpose yards. It felt so good, so righteous, to watch the Buckeyes dominate by returning to the power run game for the first time in forever.
But the sound lashing the Buckeyes gave the Spartans showed itself off in the passing game, too. And one of the players that shone the brightest in the air last weekend also looks an awful lot like the future of the wide receiver position at Ohio State.
Name: Binjimen Victor
Height/Weight: 6'4, 195 lbs.
Line: 20 receptions, 310 yards, 5 TDs
If you were building an NFL-caliber receiver from scratch, you could do a lot worse than Binjimen Victor. Coming in at 6'4 and just under 200 lbs., Victor is a matchup nightmare for defensive backs at any level.
While he barely made an impact as a freshman, last year's Ohio State offense was operating during J.T. Barrett's nadir as a passer. Barrett is back to destroying worlds in 2017, and Victor has been there to help him do it—he's the third-most-targeted player on the team, with 20 catches going for 15.5 per and five scores on the year. It's not as though he's just picking on the hapless, either; watch this clip of Victor handling a defender on what was, until recently, regarded as a pretty fearsome secondary.
From the body control, to fighting off contact, making the catch, and breaking the tackle- just a ridiculously special play from Ben Victor pic.twitter.com/ra96R1pZVZ— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) November 11, 2017
There's no reason to think Victor's trajectory won't continue against Illinois this Saturday. The Illini have just the 90th-ranked pass defense in the country, which is a real problem—the Buckeyes have a whole stable of guys they can throw to. (It actually gets uglier for Lovie Smith's squad in the run game, where they come in at just 113th nationally by S&P+. They're now facing down a Buckeye rushing attack that ate Michigan State alive last weekend. Yeesh.)
There are a few Illini defensive players to keep an eye on, especially as it pertains to their attempts to stop J.T. Barrett's receiving corps. Sophomore safety Patrick Nelson is a force when playing close to the line of scrimmage, and while he's struggled in open field coverage, his 6'2, 210-lb. frame makes him the Illini's best shot at a physical matchup with Victor. A rotating cast of DBs that combines veteran leadership (like Jaylen Dunlap) with raw young talent (Nate Hobbs, Bennett Williams) means that Illinois isn't short of options to throw at the Buckeye offense, but their results have been mixed this season, to put it generously.
What to watch for
Like the Iowa defense that so bedeviled the Buckeyes, the Illini—despite their many struggles—are one of the best teams in the country at containing explosive plays. So we might not see Mike Weber rip off another 80-plus yard dash in this one. But by getting back to basics, Ohio State showed it can dominate with or without the occasional huge play. The steady, chain-moving version of this team that forces opponents to respect both dimensions of the offense is the best version; barring some catastrophic collapse, that domination should continue on Saturday. The Buckeyes still have the second-most efficient offense in college football.
The most likely scenario is that the Buckeyes continue roughly the same game plan against the Illini that worked so well against the Spartans: a heavy dose of the power run, with enough short-to-mid-range passes to keep players like Patrick Nelson honest. (Given the secondary's struggles in 2017, they'll probably chance a few more deep throws like in the Victor video above.) Look for Dwayne Haskins, Antonio Williams, and a few more bench standouts to pad their season stats in the second half of this one.