The Illini were 17-point underdogs on Saturday and were in position to cover the spread for much of the afternoon until the Buckeyes slowly wore down Illinois' defense. Ezekiel Elliot rushed for 181 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while recently reinstated quarterback J.T. Barrett posted meager passing numbers, 15-of-23 for 150 yards, but ran for 74 yards and a score. Wes Lunt was 23-of-47 for 241 yards and the Illini rushed for only 20 yards for the game.
Here's some things we learned from Saturday's game.
1. Even with Josh Ferguson, this Illini offense struggles
Even with Swiss Army knife Josh Ferguson in the lineup, this Illinois offense simply isn't that good. While the unit's numbers were boosted by a handful of big plays (Ferguson had a 27 yard rush and a 25 yard reception on a screen, Lunt hit Desmond Cain and Geronimo Allison for 36 and 38 yards, respectively) Ohio State's defense was really stifling. It all starts with Joey Bosa, the Buckeyes' star defensive end - any time the Buckeyes generated a pass rush, (which was often) Lunt was forced to scramble and usually threw the ball away. Lunt seemed out of sync for most of the day and there were multiple instances where he had throws to make into tight windows, only to miss the open target. Only a week ago seemingly nothing could go wrong, but this week the Illinois offense couldn't get much to go right.
2. Illinois still can't do the little things
In order to knock off a giant like Ohio State, Illinois needed some breaks to go their way and to capitalize on the precious few mistakes that the Buckeyes would make. Illinois caught a break early in the game when Ohio State was held out of the end zone after a pair of lengthy reviews, and eventually missed a 24-yard field goal on the opening possession of the game. After recovering an Ohio State fumble in Buckeye territory, Illinois went 3-and-out and Taylor Zalewski clanked a field goal off the upright. He also booted a kickoff out of bounds to mitigate any momentum after Illinois' only score of the game in the second quarter.
3. Ohio State may be dropping in the polls, but they just keep winning
Ohio State hasn't been sexy in a lot of their wins, but the point is that they're still winning. The Buckeyes still have never lost a conference game under Urban Meyer and despite only being No. 3 in the College Football Playoff rankings, Ohio State is still the team to beat until someone shows they can knock off Barrett and Co.