If Forrest Gump was sitting in either A-deck or C-deck at Ohio Stadium during Saturday’s game against Illinois, he might’ve reused the same line about how the rain seemed like it was coming from all directions.
For most of the second half, rain was constantly pelting the field of the play. In years past, the rain on Senior Day has been a bad omen. Back in 2015, the Ohio State Buckeyes rolled into their last home game of the season with a showdown against Michigan State. Bad weather in that contest led to OSU not utilizing their offense to its potential, and that would be enough to cost the Buckeyes a win—as well as a trip to a Big Ten Championship and possible playoff berth.
Luckily, the same thing didn’t happen on Saturday. Yes, the rain was torrential, but the Fighting Illini were, well, uh, not as good as that Spartan team was a couple years ago.
Ohio State demolished Illinois, 52-14, solidifying a Big Ten East Division crown. But in that win, what all did we learn about this OSU team?
When it’s finally over, we’re gonna miss J.T. Barrett
At times this season, the popular chorus being sung amongst OSU fans, especially when times were rocky and rough, was to have a switch at quarterback. When Oklahoma scored a victory over Ohio State, a vocal social media following wanted Dwayne Haskins in as the new Buckeye QB—even though Barrett is the most prolific passer in school history.
It’s not over yet, but Barrett only has a handful of games left in his OSU career; yesterday, however, was his last game inside Ohio Stadium. Barrett was the last of the 19 seniors to be recognized, and, arguably, he received the loudest ovation from the crowd.
And in typical Barrett fashion, he broke some more records.
Going 11-of-19 for 142 passing yards and two touchdowns, the Wichita Falls, Texas native crossed the milestone of throwing 100 career TDs. He got there courtesy of a 11-yard pass to wide receiver Binjimen Victor.
Call him Mr. .— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) November 18, 2017
J.T. Barrett keeps passing milestones, as he hits the 100-TD pass mark in his Buckeyes career: pic.twitter.com/amkpX8rj8F
On the ground, Barrett rushed for 33 yards on five carries, scoring once. Within those 33 yards, he passed Braxton Miller for the most rushing yards by a Buckeye quarterback.
It seems like Barrett’s been the Buckeye QB forever. His first start against Navy, back in the 2014 season, seems so long ago. Barrett was part of the same recruiting class as Christian Hackenberg, who went on to become the Penn State quarterback before Trace McSorley took over.
While he may be done playing inside The ‘Shoe, the Buckeyes and Barrett have at least three more games left on the slate: next week against Michigan, the Big Ten Championship, and whatever bowl game they get selected to.
Could there be a national championship game on the horizon for this squad? Possibly, but they’ll need some help.
Either way, it’s been a great run with Barrett as signal caller. The Illinois victory puts his total win/loss record to 35-6 as starting quarterback. He’s got his name etched on 36 Big Ten or school records, which is astounding when you actually sit down and think about it.
To me, he’s on the Mount Rushmore of Ohio State QBs, if there was such a thing. (Come to think about it, if there was one, I would have Barrett, Troy Smith, Rex Kern and Craig Krenzel on my Mount Rushmore of all-time Buckeye quarterbacks.)
Like the spot, SB Nation’s Matt Brown wrote a very good piece reflecting on Barrett, and how he’ll be remembered.
Mike Weber is out here running like The Flash
For the second straight week, Mike Weber has shown bursts of speed. Like, he showed speed I didn’t know he had. Against the Illini, the Detroit native led the Buckeyes in rushing with 108 yards on 11 carries. He also found the endzone twice, and broke off a 43-yard rush.
Great to see Weber finally looking healthy. That's his 3rd 40-plus yard touchdown run in the last two weeks. pic.twitter.com/Cs3FssfKld— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) November 18, 2017
Last season, Weber was a power back; he was the guy you brought in for those tough yards on the ground. This season, that trend continued right up until last week.
Was this week’s performance better than last week? I would say no. (Then again, how many sequels are actually better than the first performance?) Michigan State was a good team, and Weber ran right through them; Illinois is a terri—uh, not so good of a team, and after seeing what he could do versus the Spartans, the same sort of ballpark expectations were on the table—and Weber delivered.
However, if Weber continues the hot streak against Michigan and Wisconsin, fully expect rumors of a jump to the NFL.
Don’t forget about Parris Campbell
With the first team starters, the Buckeyes moved the ball down the field. That’s expected, though. But, with Michigan looming, the star power needs to be out in full force, as all bets are off when it comes to playing rivals. Especially when it comes to playing your archrival on the road, you don’t know how things will shake out.
Weber has proven to be just as big of a threat on the ground as J.K. Dobbins, but there’s another speedster that will help stretch the field: Parris Campbell.
Campbell is the guy for screen passes out in the flat, but against Illinois, he gave us a new highlight for how he can stretch the field.
Not sure if Parris Campbell faked out the camera man or the Illinois defenders worse pic.twitter.com/vVKhxu7iUF— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) November 18, 2017
The rush in the highlight was Campbell’s only one for the game. However, it went for a cool 44 yards, and was the longest run of the afternoon/evening for the home team. On the receiving end, Campbell led all receivers in receiving yards (59) on just three catches.
If OSU was going to break open some East-West play calls next Saturday, Campbell is the obvious choice. By having Campbell, especially at full health, this offense shouldn’t have too much of a problem moving the chains in Ann Arbor.
Illinois is still a work in progress
Normally, these ‘things we learned’ posts attempt to delve into the insights from the latest Buckeye outing. In the early parts of the season, we progressively learned what this team was capable of; and in the losses, we tried to come up with an understanding for why it happened and what went wrong.
But this Illinois game was the trickiest game of the season. The main reason being that the Illini were, by far, the worst opponent on Ohio State’s schedule. Throughout the season, 16 freshman were thrust into starting roles, and the Illini’s last win against Western Kentucky on Sept. 9 wasn’t actually a runaway victory. The Illini walked into this game 2-8 on the season, so the expectations of an upset against the Buckeyes would’ve come just short of being delusional.
Since last week, we didn’t really collect new intel on the Buckeye defense, mostly because the Illini offense wasn’t that good to begin with. Jeff George Jr., who led the Illini in passing this season, didn’t play in Columbus, and Chayce Crouch, who ended up starting, threw 16 yards on 4-of-14 passing.
On the ground, Illinois only had 86 total yards amongst four rushers. In comparison, Mike Weber had over 86 yards in the first half.
It was a no good, terrible, very bad day for Illinois football inside Ohio Stadium. They won’t play Ohio State again until 2020, meaning that the Illibuck is staying in Ohio’s capital city for the foreseeable future. Maybe then they’ll be able to get back on track to becoming a bowl contender for the Big Ten.