In a game awkwardly wedged between two of its premier games of the season, Ohio State dismantled Illinois on a cold November night.
The Buckeyes, which won 55-14 in an effort that was so out of hand by halftime that they started emptying their bench in the third quarter, amassed 545 yards and stifled the Fighting Illini to 243. Ohio State raced out to a 48-0 lead before head coach Urban Meyer and Co. took its collective foot off Illinois' jugular.
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The victory, which marked the team's sixth straight since a loss to Virginia Tech, was the latest example of a resurgent squad flexing its muscles against inferior competition. And with a rematch against Michigan State looming, the Buckeyes had the chance to prove they could do it against top competition, too.
Player of the Game: Everyone!
If you were to comb through the box score, it's really hard to single out any one player for an outstanding performance that changed the tide of a terribly lopsided game.
Starters like J.T. Barrett (15-of-24, 167 yards and two touchdowns), Ezekiel Elliott (69 yards on nine carries), Joey Bosa (four tackles, three tackles-for-loss, two sacks), Michael Thomas (67 yards and a touchdown on six catches, and Dontre Wilson (42 yards and a touchdown on four catches) all played a significant role in the obliteration of the Fighting Illini.
But most of their outputs were modest compared to previous outings, largely because their services weren't needed.
Instead, backups like Curtis Samuel (63 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries), and pre-postseason Cardale Jones (129 yards and two touchdowns) were thrust into considerable action with the contest well in hand by halftime.
Critical Play of the Game: Curtis Samuel's 23-yard run to go up, 7-0
This game was a laugher that was over after Ohio State's first touchdown. In three plays, 38 yards and 38 seconds, the Buckeyes took a quick, 7-0, lead after freshman running back Curtis Samuel scampered 23 yards into the end zone.
After that, Ohio State scored another 41 unanswered points and slapped around Illinois like it was a bad non-conference opponent in September. Because of this, there was no critical play of the game because this wasn't much of a game.
Note: With that said, an honorable mention nod goes to Cardale Jones, who nearly decapitated Illinois defensive back V'Angelo Bentley after he threw an interception in mop-up duty.
What It Meant
Illinois Game Coverage
Almost immediately upon routing the Fighting Illini, the Buckeyes swiftly turned their attention to a rematch against the defending Big Ten Champions, Michigan State, who snapped their 24-game winning streak and dashed their championship hopes.
“We know what this week’s about,” redshirt freshman linebacker Darron Lee said, “and it’s on, honestly.”
The memories from that night in Lucas Oil Stadium — where the Spartans upset the Buckeyes, 34-24, to win the conference title — had been slow to fade. As such, Ohio State had circled a trip to East Lansing as a chance at revenge and writing a new chapter in Meyer's reign.
“Obviously the dream was ripped away from us," Meyer said of the 2013 season, where the Buckeyes finished 12-2. "Ripped away by a very good team." But against Michigan State, the dream could take form again.