Ohio State's contest against Illinois isn't exactly the premier showdown that Buckeye seniors have become accustomed to going out with in their final home game.
Illinois is set to come to Columbus on Saturday with a 2-8, 0-7 record and as a 38-point underdog. Not many are expecting the game to mean much in the grand scheme of things.
The game will, however, serve as the final contest in Ohio Stadium for a number of Ohio State seniors, including seven fifth-year players, a rarity in recent years for the Buckeyes. With so many players declaring early for the NFL draft, Ohio State hasn't seen many players stick around for five years, but Urban Meyer said the Buckeyes are hoping to send those players out the right way on Saturday afternoon.
"We're very close to this group of seniors," Meyer said Monday. "There will be, once again, I haven't thought about it much and there will be the right time to have those conversations, but it's very well-documented the respect and love we have for these guys because it's the first time we've had a couple of fifth-year seniors who have decided to stay throughout their journey, and we're going to treat them right. And best way to treat them right is go win this game."
|J.T. Barrett||QB||Wichita Falls, Texas|
|Tyquan Lewis||DE||Tarboro, N.C.|
|Billy Price||C||Youngstown, Ohio|
|Chris Worley||LB||Cleveland, Ohio|
|Jalyn Holmes||DE||Norfolk, Va.|
|Jamarco Jones||OT||Chicago, Ill.|
|Tracy Sprinkle||DT||Elyria, Ohio|
|Damon Webb||DB||Detroit, Mich.|
|Marcus Baugh||TE||Riverside, Calif.|
|Michael Hill||DT||Pendleton, S.C.|
|Erick Smith||DB||Cleveland, Ohio|
|Stephen Collier||QB||Leesburg, Ga.|
|Zach Turnure||TE/FB||St. Louis, Mo.|
|Nick Seme||DL||Wadsworth, Ohio|
|Elijaah Goins||WR/DB||Concord, N.C.|
|Trevon Forte||DB||Youngstown, Ohio|
|Cin'quan Haney||DB||Dayton, Ohio|
|Jackson Hayes||LB||Dublin, Ohio|
|Clay Raterman||DB||Dublin, Ohio|
Ohio State's seven fifth-year players (J.T. Barrett, Tyquan Lewis, Billy Price, Chris Worley, Tracy Sprinkle, Marcus Baugh, Michael Hill) have all played a significant role for the Buckeyes in one way or another, but it is Barrett that has received the most attention during his time in Columbus.
Barrett has accounted for more touchdowns in Big Ten history than any other player, and has an opportunity to become the first Ohio State quarterback to be a perfect 4-0 against Michigan next week.
Until that moment comes, however, Meyer said Barrett and the Buckeyes are focused on beating Illinois in Ohio Stadium on Saturday.
"I love J.T. J.T. is a member of the Meyer family and the Buckeye family for the rest of his life," Meyer said. "And I just want him to play really well and do the best we can to prepare him to play very well."
Barrett's battery mate on offense, center Billy Price, broke the Ohio State record for consecutive starts against Michigan State and will also be among the 19 seniors playing their final game in Ohio Stadium.
Jamarco Jones, who is closing in on the end of his second season as a starter, said after Ohio State's 48-3 win over Michigan State on Saturday that Senior Day will be an emotional afternoon for him.
"It's going to be a rough one. I have played a lot of games here. It is going to be special next week," he said.
Also of note, Ohio State will honor former quarterback Stephen Collier on Senior Day. A member of the 2014 recruiting class, Collier suffered a knee injury prior to the 2016 season and did not see action, subsequently hanging up his cleats in January. He assisted in signaling offensive plays for the Buckeyes last season and has been working with the program in a behind-the-scenes role in 2017.