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The Ohio State defense will have their way with the Illinois offense

The Illini quarterback situation is not great.

Illinois v Minnesota Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Illinois Fighting Illini head coach Lovie Smith is not sure who is going to start for his football team on Saturday against the Buckeyes, but unfortunately for Smith, it won’t make a difference who he picks.

When re-watching Illinois’ 24-10 loss to Wisconsin, the game wasn’t actually as close as the scoreboard indicated. Smith flip-flopped his two quarterbacks throughout the afternoon, and neither could get anything going against a comparable defense to what they’ll see on Saturday.

Illinois QB Chart vs Wisconsin

Designed Runs Dropbacks Completions Incompletions Total TD Scrambles Overthrows Throwaways
Designed Runs Dropbacks Completions Incompletions Total TD Scrambles Overthrows Throwaways
7 41 11 22 1 2 5
Pressured Sacked Hit PBU Batted at LOS Drops Turnovers Defensive PI
12 3 6 3 0 4 3 2

On the 41 dropbacks that Jeff George Jr. and Cam Thomas made, they only completed 11 passes. On the 22 incompletions that were thrown, the majority of them were not even close to being completed. The offensive line let up a pressure on 30-percent of the dropbacks and as one can see, it was a complete disaster all afternoon.

Chayce Crouch began the season as the starter before struggling. Crouch struggled so much behind center that he was moved to H-back. Jeff George Jr. took over for Crouch and has completed only 50-percent of his throws to the tune of seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Smith decided to sub in true freshman Cam Thomas, who is a pretty good runner, but will not challenge any secondary through the air. George is the ‘better thrower’ of the two, but that’s not saying much.

  • On Illinois’ first series, George went 0-3 with an interception. On this throw, he showed he does not have the arm strength to hit the 10-yard out. The Wisconsin corner wasn’t fooled by the route, and was able to undercut the route for the easy interception. George had to go somewhere else with the football in that situation.
  • After subbing out George for Thomas, George was put back into the game and overthrew this receiver who created the most separation on the afternoon. George had a clean pocket and a wide-open receiver, but couldn’t hit him.
  • I want to blame this on miscommunication between Thomas and his receiver, but it’s pretty clear that the outside receiver ran a go route to open up the quick out. The receiver actually got some good separation on the defender, but Thomas overthrew the out by about five yards.
  • When Thomas enters the game, he’s most likely going to run the ball. They typically like to line up in an empty formation and call a designed QB Draw. After racking up 10-plus yards on a zone read, they never went back to it. Thomas flashes, but he’s extremely raw and inconsistent.
  • This is another bad decision by Thomas. This was a slow developing banana route that was easily undercut by the safety. Luckily for Thomas, the safety dropped the interception.
  • It’s tough to see what Thomas saw on this play. There were four defenders in the screen to only two receivers, and neither receiver had a chance to make a play on the football. It’s unfair to put all the blame on the quarterback in a situation like this, but he did throw it into an area where nothing positive would occur.

Overall, it’s going to be total destruction for the Ohio State defense against Illinois. The offense has freshman receiver Ricky Smalling as a playmaker, but he’s most likely going to be blanketed by Denzel Ward. The defensive line is going to get pressure on these quarterbacks early and often, which will result in plenty of mistakes. It’s going to be ugly for Lovie Smith and it’s not going to matter who he chooses to start at quarterback.