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Illinois: Way Too Early 2017 Preview

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Matt Gutridge's picture
July 12, 2017 at 10:05am
29 Comments
Lovie Smith

Game Details

When: Saturday, Nov 18, 2017 
Where: Columbus, OH, Ohio Stadium

Ohio State is 68–30–4 all-time against against Illinois and is 29–18–4 as the home team.  

There is a theme for Ohio State and its 2017 opponents and that is at quarterback. Illinois will be the third straight team, and sixth overall, that the Buckeyes' defense will face that is replacing its 2016 signal-caller. Wes Lunt finished his Illini career with 550 completions, 5,900 yards and 36 touchdowns. Lovie Smith will turn to Jeff George Jr. to direct the offense.

If George lives up to the family name, Illinois will have an improvement in the passing game. His dad, Jeff George Sr., was the No. 1 overall pick of the 1990 NFL Draft. Last year, as a redshirt sophomore, George Jr. played in five games and started four of them. The Georges became the first father and son combo to start at quarterback for Illinois. 

Defensive coordinator Hardy Nickerson will need to replace the team's leading tackler and a slew of players that accounted for 25 of the team's 29.5  sacks. Nickerson's son, linebacker Hardy Nickerson, led the Illini with 107 tackles in '16. The elder Nickerson will likely turn to linebacker Tre' Watson to fill the void.

The Last Time...​

  • Ohio State played Illinois was 2015. The second ranked Buckeyes won 28-3 in Champaign.
  • The Buckeyes lost to Illinois was 2007. Juice Williams (and some officiating calls) led the visitors to a 28-21 victory.
  • Illinios defeated Ohio State in Memorial Stadium was 1991. The Illini were coached by John Mackovic and won 10-7.

Game 11, The Last Time...

  • Ohio State played the 11th game of the season on the road was 2016. No. 2 Ohio State defeated Michigan State 17-16 in East Lansing.
  • The Buckeyes lost the 11th game of the season was 2015. No. 9 Michigan State upset No. 2 Ohio State in Ohio Stadium.
  • Ohio State was defeated as the away team on the 11th game of the season was 1993. John Cooper's fifth ranked Buckeyes lost to unranked Michigan 28-0 in Ann Arbor.  

Illinois' 2016 Season

Record: 3–9
Bowl Game: Nope.
Coaching Status: Lovie (3–9) 2nd season.

Leading Returning Offensive Players From 2016
Passer: Jeff George Jr. (470 yards)
Rusher: Kendrick Foster (720 yards)
Receiver: Malik Turner (712 yards)

Leading Returning Defensive Players From 2016
Tackles: Tre' Watson (107)
Sacks: Austin Roberts (1.5)
Interceptions: Julian Hylton (1)

Top 2017 Recruits

Illinois' Recruiting Rankings
CLASS NATIONAL RANK B1G RANK TOP PLAYER
2014 72 14 3★ DT JIHARD WARD
2015 48 8 4★ OT GABE MEGGINSON
2016 73 13 3★ TE ZARRIAN HOLCOMBE
2017 45 10 3★ WR RICKY SMALLING
AVG 60 11  

Notable Missing Players

  • QB Wes Lunt (1,376 yards and 8 TDs)
  • Hardy Nickerson (107 tackles)
  • Carroll Phillips (9 sacks)
  • Darius Mosley (2 INT)
  • RB Ke'Shawn Vaughn transferred to Vanderbilt

Five Things November 18th

  1. This is the 19th time the Buckeyes have played on November 18th.
  2. No. 1 Ohio State defeated No. 2 Michigan 42-39 in Ohio Stadium the last time the program played on this date.
  3. The Buckeyes have won seven of the last eight games played on Nov. 18.
  4. Ohio State has only played three ranked opponents on the 18th of November and is 1–2 in those games.   
  5. The Buckeyes have five shutout wins on this date. The last occurred in 1939 when Francis Schmidt's team defeated Robert Zuppke's Illinois squad 21-0 in Ohio Stadium.
2016 Statistical Comparison
Ohio State Buckeyes   Hoosiers
OFFENSE
39.4 13th POINTS FOR 19.7 122nd
245.2 11th RUSHING OFFENSE 140.5 105th
213.9 81st PASSING OFFENSE 174.6 109th
459.2 31st TOTAL OFFENSE 315.1 123rd
.467 17th 3rd DOWNS .284 127th
.871 40th RED ZONE .774 109th
DEFENSE
15.5 3rd POINTS ALLOWED 31.9 94th
124.5 19th RUSH DEFENSE 219.2 105th
172.2 7th PASS DEFENSE 185.9 17th
94.4 3rd PASS EFFICIENCY DEFENSE 131.1 72nd
296.8 6th TOTAL DEFENSE 405.1 61st
.322 11th 3rd DOWNS .446 107th
.725 5th RED ZONE .895 102nd
SPECIAL TEAMS
5.2 105th PUNT RETURN 4.4 109th
24.4 13th KICKOFF RETURN 18.9 108th
43.1 2nd NET PUNTING 35.0 110th
MISCELLANEOUS
+ 1.2 3rd TURNOVER MARGIN - 0.1 82nd
6.3 70th PENALTIES 6.3 70th
18 EDGE 1

Leftovers

Ohio State is 28–21–1 when playing the 11th game of the season and is 14–6 when playing the 11th game on the road.

Lovie Smith is 3–9 as a collegiate head coach and was 89–87 in the NFL.

Ohio State has played 13 games as the home team on 11/11 and is 10–2–1.

The Buckeyes are 1–1 when the 11th game of the season is played on November 18. In 2000, No. 12 Ohio State lost to No. 19 Michigan 38-26 in John Cooper's last appearance in The Game.  The Buckeyes destroyed Indiana 42-3 in Ohio Stadium in 1995.

This is the first time in Ohio State's history that the team has played the 11th game of the season on November 18.

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