Beyond the Hashes: Illinois

By Chad Peltier on November 4, 2012 at 12:00p

The Buckeyes sit at 10-0, the first AQ team to hit double digits – life is good, fellow Buckeyes. 

Trucking half of the team, Hyde explodes into the end zone for another scoreThe Buckeyes dominated the ground game

The Matchup 

A quick check has Illinois as only 5 spots above the worst opponent the Buckeyes have had so far, UAB. 

Unfortunately for Illinois, UAB actually has a higher ranked offense than Illinois using the S&P+ ranking. Regardless of the exact rankings, Illinois could not be much more of an underdog coming into this game – about 25 spots lower than either Indiana or Purdue, for instance.

Matchup-wise, the biggest differential is the Buckeye defense against the Illinois offense. While the Buckeyes have struggled against spread offenses this year, the Illinois offense would have to have gone under quite a transformation in order to match up with the deceptively efficient Buckeye defense.

  Record S&P+ RK Off S&P+ Rk Def S&P+ Rk
Ohio St 9-0 19 14 25
Illinois 2-6 100 111 80

In other mismatches, the Illini defense is currently ranked 80th to Ohio State's 14th-most efficient offense.

The Offense

Your new B1G scoring leaders – at almost 40 points per game – put in a very efficient performance last night: 

  1D 3D 4D Yards Pass Rush TO Penalty QS Sack
vs. Ill 32(22) 50% 100% 567(446) 237(199) 330(256) 2(16) 6-79(73-675) .658 4(22)

The Buckeyes' averaged about 2/3 a point per play, put points on the board on ~75% of their possessions, and scored touchdowns on all but one trip into the red zone. It seemed as though the offense could just do completely as it pleased with a depleted Illini defense, which clearly gave up in the fourth quarter.

I don't think it's too much of stretch to say that the Buckeyes didn't hit 70 or so because of the Guiton fumble and total Tresselball in the 4th quarter. The Buckeyes' second- and third-string offense ran the same Dunn inside zone for an entire drive and every single run was efficient

The rushing offense is now ninth nationally with 256 yards per game. As you saw throughout the broadcast, the duo of Miller and Hyde is one of the tops in the country, and it was even more apparent against the Illini defense. 

The high number of first downs and overall number of plays (79!) is indicative of extremely steady performances, with high efficiency and sustained drives as opposed to short drives with big plays.

Pretty much the only negative that I'd like to point out were the four sacks that the offensive line gave up, though part of this may be because Miller was told to work on the passing game rather than scrambling all the time. 

The Clock. The long, efficient drives contributed to the Buckeyes' second-highest number of plays, behind only Miami: 

  Time of Possession # of Plays
vs. Illinois 33:31 79
Season (30:21) (71)
Last Season 30:40 62

After ten games the offense is still managing to control the clock for almost the same amount of time as last year while running approximately ten more plays per game. 

More plays means more chances to score, but the no-huddle also hasn't seemed to sacrifice overall clock control either. 

The Defense

The defense continued its resurgence over the second half of the season, completely shutting down an admittedly miserable Illini offense:

  1D Yards Pass Rush TO TOP TFL Sack INT 3&Out RBSR QSand
vs. Ill 15(186) 170(368) 96(259) 74(108) 1(16) 26:29 7(48) 2(22) 1(13) 4(32) 44% .212

It's true that any analysis of the defense has to first begin with the Illinois offensive statistics – 111th in the country in offensive efficiency and 110th in passing offense according to Football Outsiders' S&P+. 

But still – anytime your pass defense, which has been mediocre throughout the year, holds the opposing offense to under a 100 yards passing, you've got to be happy. The Illini wouldn't have been able to move the ball at all if not for a few defensive penalties (including a couple on Christian Bryant in particular). 

You've got to be used to it by now, but the rush defense was even better, holding the Illini to just 74 rushing yards and 44% efficiency. The Buckeyes have markedly improved their edge containment, with Shazier flying all over the field and Boren displaying perfect form tackling. 

Part of this defensive performance was because the Buckeyes managed to contain the mobile Scheelhaase with edge blitzes and pressure from Nathan Williams, John Simon, and RDS. 

The Buckeyes held the Illini to just 1/5 of a point per play and forced 4 three-and-outs and seven total punts. Including the end of the game and Scheelhaase's interception, that means that just a quarter of the Illini's drives resulted in points. 

Pretty much the only negative for the Buckeye defense was that turnovers have decreased in the second half of the season, likely due to a shifting coverage strategy. The Buckeyes now have an equal number of turnovers and forced turnovers. 

Special Teams

It was a fairly uneventful day for the Buckeye special teams, with no major problems or big plays to speak of. While Illini kick returner Terry Hawthorne managed one 45-yard kickoff return, he was held to a fair catch on his lone punt return for the day, just like Meyer likes it. 

JUST HOLD ON TO THE BALL, DANGITRod Smith, wide receiver 

Corey Brown had an impressive punt return (that still only netted 13 yards) and Drew Basil completed his fourth field goal attempt out of six on the year. I still can't wrap my head around only six attempts in ten games. 

Player Analysis

Braxton Miller and Kenny G. Braxton turned in a solid performance, throwing much cleaner and accurate than against Penn State or Purdue. 

In fact, Braxton would have had a higher completion percentage if not for a few drops by Vannett and Stoney (who turned in good performances otherwise) and a few incomplete bombs to end the first half.

I look for Braxton to continue this improved passing and surpass the 2,000-yard mark on the season, even against a surprisingly efficient Michigan passing defense (I can't believe I just typed that).

Kenny G also looked good apart from his fumble, connecting on one of two passes.

  Comp/Att % Yards TD INT Rating
Miller 12/20(124/218) 60 226(1753) 2(14) -(6) 187.9
Guiton 1/2 (12/23) 50 11(139) 96.2

Running Backs. This is the dominant stable of running backs you were looking for, no need to go down to Tuscaloosa:  

  Atts Yards YPC RBSR EX Plays YPC-Ex Plays
Hyde 18(144) 137(737) 7.6 78% (62%) 19, 24, 20 4.9
Miller 15(179) 73(1185) 4.1 67%(60%)    
Dunn 13 (25) 73(133) 5.6 92%(87%)    
Boren (11) (33) (64%)
R. Smith 5(31) 32(211) 6.4 100%(74%)    
C. Brown (8) (70) (88%)
Hall (40) (218) (73%) 
Guiton 2 16 8.0 50% (50%) 23 -7 

Hyde, Dunn, and Braxton all turned in extremely efficient performances, with 78%, 92%, and 67% efficiency for the three backs, respectively.

Hyde has a chance to hit the 1,000-yard mark on the season, which would give Urban Meyer his first two 1,000 yard rushers – and on the same team! If Hyde can get those final 263 yards (a tall order, no doubt) against Wisconsin and Michigan, then Miller and Hyde would be in elite company, having each run for >1,000 in just 12 games. 

Even when removing Hyde's three explosive runs (>15 yards), he still averages ~5 yards per carry.

One quick thought about Rod Smith's fumble – it's hard to make excuses for it at this point. While the Illini defender's helmet was right on the ball and it might have happened to anyone, it unfortunately happened to Rod this time. Hopefully he corrects this problem, because he's showing great efficiency in his limited opportunities. 

Wide Receivers. More wide receivers managed to get involved this week against the weak Illini secondary:

  Yards Catch Rate
Spencer 9(127) 1/1(11/18)
D. Smith 9(514) 1/1(24/46)
Stoneburner 24(260) 1/3(15/22)
C. Brown 79(526) 4/4(48/64)
Boren (42) (5/7)
Heuerman 5(91) 1/1(8/12)
Hyde (43) (7/8)
Reed (13) (1/1)
Vannett 45(117) 3/5(9/13)
Hall (31) (3/3)
M. Thomas (17) (2/2)
C. Fields 11(55) 1/1(4/6)
Rod Smith 55 (55) 2/2

However, it has been a little weird to see Devin Smith drop off a bit over the last few games, only netting 57 yards over the last three games. This dropoff has allowed Corey Brown to pass Devin for team leader in receiving yards.  

Also, congrats to Vannett for passing the century mark for receiving yards on the season, as well as Rod Smith, who burst onto the scene with 55 receiving yards. Gotta love the wheel route. 

Defense. I've already lauded the defense as a whole, but Shazier, Boren, Adolphus Washington, and the defensive line deserve individual praise. 

  Tackles TFL Sacks PBU Int
Shazier 14 2   1  
Boren 8 .5      
Barnett 6        
Johnson 6     1  
Williams 4 1      
Hankins 4 1      
Washington 3 1.5 1    
Howard 3       1
Simon 1 1 1 1  

Shazier has really stepped up his game and is playing like the potential All-Conference player we expected in the pre-season. The defense seemed to bring a ton of pressure throughout the game and while it didn't result in a ton of sacks, the Silver Bullets racked up TFLs and QB hurries, with Simon alone responsible for two hurries, one sack, and one TFL. 

Even though the Wisconsin and Michigan offenses are undoubtedly better than Illinois', they are both more traditional (Michigan less so) and play to the Buckeyes' strengths. 

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