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Ohio State’s defense made its offense unstoppable against Illinois

Both sides of the ball did what they needed to do, and now we can turn to The Game.

Illinois v Ohio State Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

That went exactly how it should — Ohio State entered garbage time after just 16 plays by Illinois’ offense, mounting a 38-0 lead before half time. Illinois was the worst team on Ohio State’s schedule going by the S&P+ rankings, and well, the score reflected that. Ohio State had a +49% success rate:

OSU vs. Illinois

Metric Ohio State Iliinois
Metric Ohio State Iliinois
Rushing SR 65% 14%
Rushing opp rate 57% 29%
Rushing exp plays 17% 0%
Rushing stuffed rate 9% 29%
Passing SR 56% 11%
Passing exp plays 13% 0%
Overall SR 62% 13%
Overall exp rate 15% 0%
3rd down % 57% 0%
Red zone TDs 100% N/A
Scoring opps efficiency 6.33 N/A
Drive efficiency 100% 0%
Three-and-out drives 0% 100%
Pts off turnovers 0 0
Havoc rate allowed 5.13% 6.25%
Avg. Starting Field Position 42 19

In the table above, scoring opportunity efficiency looks at the average points scored per scoring opportunity -- drives with a first down past the opponents' 40-yard line. Drive efficiency looks at the percentage of drives that were scoring opportunities. Rushing opportunity rate is the % of runs that gained five or more yards. Rushing stuff rate is the % of runs that were for no gain or a loss. Explosive plays are 12+ yard runs and 20+ yard passes here.

Garbage time kicked in a little before halftime, when Ohio State went up 38-0.

Here are the takeaways that I said would be most important in the game preview:

  1. The Illini are overmatched in almost every statistical category, but have bright spots in their running offense with Cam Thomas at QB, tight end Louis Dorsey, and freshman receiver Ricky Smalling.
  2. The young Illini offensive line has a very bad matchup with Ohio State’s elite defensive line, ranking 89th and 123rd in offensive stuff rate and adjusted sack rate.
  3. The Illini defense is pretty solid, ranking 69th overall, and doing a great job preventing explosive plays.

Offense: Short fields will do that

Ohio State had six drives before the game went into garbage time, scoring on all of them (with one field goal). On those six drives, the last four averaged starting on the Ohio State 49 yard line due to five-straight three-and-outs by the Illini offense. With so many short fields, it was almost inevitable that the Buckeyes would score on all of them. While Ohio State’s 62% overall success rate is incredible (for comparison, Ohio State had only one better game in the 2015-2016 seasons — the opener vs. Bowling Green).

Everything went well for the Buckeyes, but I’ll highlight how dynamic Parris Campbell is with the ball in his hands — no one else on the team has his blend of vision, lateral quickness, and acceleration. That was most evident on his 44-yard touchdown run, but he also led the team with 59 receiving yards.

One surprise -- Mike Weber was the more explosive back for the second straight week, ripping off 43-yard and 22-yard runs by breaking multiple tackles and just outrunning the secondary. Weber looks healthy now — which will be huge for Ohio State’s next two upcoming games.

If you want to do some nitpicking, then you could talk about how Binjimen Victor’s touchdown was the only completion to a non-slot receiver before garbage time kicked in. So... there’s that, I guess.

Defense: Total domination, but an over-matched opponent

There’s not too much to say here: Illinois had five-straight three-and-outs before the game entered garbage time. Illinois’ offense was already in bad shape, but they had to go back to a quarterback that was previously benched, so their one successful passing play shouldn’t have been too surprising.

The Worley-Borland-Harrison/Baker combination seems to be working out well, but again, there’s not too much you can take away from this, to be honest. As of the mid-third quarter (when I’m writing this, for self-disclosure), Illinois still only had three completed passes for 9 yards, and just one first down.

But again — when the defense is this dominant, the offense gets some amazing field position.