Illinois will be on the road battling one of the best teams in the Big Ten and the nation tomorrow, Ohio State. The game will be broadcast on national television on ABC at 2:30 pm C.T. I’m joined this week by Max Littman from SB Nation’s Land Grant Holy Land. He was kind enough to answer our questions about Ohio State.
1. At times this season Ohio State has looked like the best team in the nation, but has also looked very poor in two losses which puts them on the outside of the College Football Playoff right now. What happened against Oklahoma and Iowa?
ML: So, it seems we all can’t just pretend those two games didn’t happen. In both games the root problem was quarterbacks performing excellently against a can-be soft Ohio State defense and ultra conservative play calling. Ohio State is a way better team than that but those two games have shown the weakest spots in the team. The run-defense and defensive-line in both games also didn’t perform up to expectations and everything just spiraled. The OSU team we saw against Penn State and especially against Michigan State is a completely different team.
2. The Buckeyes lead the conference in points per game and gain over 100 more yards per game than the second place offense. What makes this offense so dominate? Is it just pure talent? How much does Urban Meyer’s scheme come into play?
ML: The offense has pure talent on pure talent and has benefited a lot by the new offensive scheme. Outside of two previously noted exceptions Kevin Wilson has brought the high-powered offense so many OSU fans had been waiting for. The one-two running tandem of J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber is incredibly good, and teamed with J.T. Barret can at times be unstoppable. The receivers do have their occasional issues, and drops, but almost all of them at times have had jaw-dropping catches. The offensive-line seems to be improving and when the offense is at its best it is almost unstoppable.
3. J.K. Dobbins has been sensational as a true freshman. How high is his ceiling for the Buckeyes? Is he the next Eddie George?
ML: J.K. Dobbins ceiling is higher than any Ohio State player I have ever seen, including guys like Nick Bosa and Zeke Elliott. He is so explosive, so shifty, and hits gaps so hard that even as a senior you would be shocked watching him. With over 1,000 yards this season on only 137 attempts he is incredibly efficient and by comparison doesn’t get many touches. In 2 years, there is no reason he won’t be the best back in college football, unsurprising considering that he’s just a true freshman right now.
4. How would you sum up how Ohio State fans feel about J.T. Barrett?
ML: Ohio State fans and J.T. has been the love-hate relationship of all love-hate relationships. A lot of quick reactionary fans, a fair amount, have a deep hatred of him for his mistakes. Overall though over his career he has been one of the best Buckeye QB’s in history, if not the best, and I think a lot of the fan base recognizes and appreciates that.
5. Who are some of the Ohio State players who don’t get enough credit by outside media and fans?
ML: Jordan Fuller at safety has had a great year so far, really helping to plug the massive whole in the secondary from Malik Hooker’s departure. On offense Marcus Baugh has quietly had a good year for a tight-end in Ohio State’s system which has traditionally undervalued the TE. He has racked up 206 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns.
6. Prediction time: How does this game play out?
ML: Unsurprisingly I don’t see this game going well for the Illini, at all. The Ohio State D-Line should have a field day which only means one thing for Illinois offense. On offense, I also don’t see any problems given by the Illinois defense. Score prediction I’ll go 59-3 final.
Thanks again to Max for answering our questions.