It's time for our weekly Q&A with our upcoming opponent. This week we talk to Luke Zimmermann of SB Nation's Ohio State blog: Land-Grant Holy Land. Somehow we manage to not just talk about Braxton Miller the entire time.
We're only 48 hours away from the Illini getting crushed in the Horseshoe by Ohio State, which means it's time to find out more about the team that will be beating us this week
1. Obviously, when you find out that Urban Meyer is your new head coach, that's exciting for any college football program. Even Ohio State. Still, are you surprised that the Buckeyes are currently 9-0 in Meyer's first season at Columbus and could very well finish the season 12-0?
Yeah, absolutely. Hell, I'm still surprised Urban Meyer is Ohio State's head coach. We're three fourths of the way through the season and it still doesn't totally feel real. 12-0? I hate to regurgitate Meyer-ian talking points, but let's take this one game at a time. Having been burned in season's prior, I just want to get through the Illinois game before I think about 11-0 and then Wisconsin before 12-0 is even conceivable.
2. Considering the season he's having, do you feel that Braxton Miller should be getting mentioned as a Heisman candidate more often than he currently does? Do you think Ohio State being ineligible this season is having an impact on it?
I'm not sure if it's the ineligibility so much as it's been the combination of Ohio State's sub-optimal schedule strength and his propensity to get banged up/injured. If Ohio State was the 5th team in the BCS standings...I think just given how weak the race this year and while, don't get me wrong, Collin Klein is pretty awesome, but a guy from Kansas State (and a stodgy, boring white guy at that) is just less exciting than a flashy, athletic kid at a traditional power like Ohio State. This isn't to try and reduce things into stereotypes, social norms, or what have you, but I think subconsciously, there'd be a bit more buzz if circumstances were different is all. For the record, I love watching Klein play. He's the closest thing to Tim Tebow we may have for some time. But if we're being totally honest, in full disclosure, I find Johnny Manziel more compelling to watch than even Miller.
3. The Buckeyes may be 9-0, but they've been far from perfect this season. The defense is allowing 24.1 points per game, and you've had some close calls against teams like Purdue, Indiana, Michigan State, Cal and UCF. Those aren't great teams. Why does Ohio State have trouble blowing out inferior competition this season?
I think it's just an approach thing. It's not even that the defense is bad, poorly coached, or otherwise. I think both sides of the ball just have this propensity to play to the caliber of their opposition. Meyer himself said in his press conference Monday that "this just isn't one of those teams that blows you out." I do think this is the worst back seven defensively Ohio State's had in probably 15 years, but they still have enough talent to beat most of the teams in the country. There aren't many teams on paper I think the Buckeyes couldn't hang with; Bama is a particularly bad matchup since their defense is built pretty much specifically to counter what Ohio State does offensively, but I still feel like given the challenge, the defense could rise to the occasion and help at least keep things competitive. But in the same regard, I think a lot of the 25th-35th ranked teams in the country are more than capable of beating the Buckeyes. They're just that sort of team.
4. If you wouldn't mind giving Illini fans something to feel good about, if even for a few moments, can you tell us how it felt for you in 2007 when Juice Williams and company ended an undefeated season? Also, how's Illibuck doing? We haven't seen him since.
You know, I was at that game. It felt like sleepwalking, even as a fan. It never dawned one me that Ohio State had any games they could lose that year after about the 5th or 6th game other than Michigan and a prospective national championship opponent. Losing to Ron Zook and losing the way we did, especially after a close loss in 2006 against an even better than 2007 Ohio State team... It sucked. A lot. Fortunately the Buckeyes got a lot of help and were still able to lose to LSU in style by default. Pretty great stuff.
As for the Illibuck? I miss the real turtle, man. So what if there hasn't been one in like four times the number of years I've been alive. Let's bring it back. If Animal House taught me anything, it's that accidental figure head animal homicide is hilarious. HILARIOUS.
5. Do you think there's any chance this 2012 Illinois team can do what the 2007 team did?
Yes. Not that I think this Illinois team is good; I think they're sort of a hot mess. As we discussed in our Q&A at LGHL, I liked Tim Beckman a lot going into this year (X&O wise particularly) but I don't know that I necessarily still share that affinity. But as we just talked about, Ohio State plays down to basically everyone. If they don't, sure they can really put a hurting on the Illini, but I think at the end of the day it's far more likely Illinois gives them a game than the odds makers being right and this being a three scores or more affair.