Five for Friday: Predictions for the Illinois Game
by Tony Gerdeman
The Buckeyes head to Illinois this Saturday, and even though you may think you know what's going to happen, you don't know everything that's going to happen. So I'm going to try and help you with that.
Since the Buckeyes are also playing basketball on Saturday afternoon, you may find yourself torn on which to watch. Hopefully these predictions will help you decide. Maybe you can even use them as spoilers, and then just decide to switch to basketball after Braxton Miller's day is done in the second quarter.
1. Kenny Guiton will out-rush Braxton Miller. Last week against Purdue, Miller ran the ball just once. Guiton, on the other hand, carried the ball nine times for 98 yards in backup duty. I expect this game to follow that one in great detail. There is no reason for Miller to run the ball unless he's scrambling. Ohio State is moving the ball just fine with his arm and Carlos Hyde's legs, and they don't need to change anything right now.
2. The Ohio State defensive ends will be in the backfield a lot. Illinois had started the same offensive line in each of the last eight games, but that will change this week with an injury to left tackle Simon Cvijanovic. In his place will be true freshman Austin Schmidt. Schmidt has played in bits this year, but this will be his biggest test of the season. Across from him at different times will be Noah Spence, Joey Bosa, Adolphus Washington, and Jamal Marcus, each of whom can test the most veteran of pass blockers. They should all provide pressure, but they may not necessarily get the sacks that they want. Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase is a tremendous runner and can escape most pass rushes. Keep in mind, Michigan State held the Illini to three points, and they only sacked the quarterback twice.
3. Carlos Hyde could rush for 300 yards, but will call it a day at 130 yards. Much like his day against Purdue, Hyde will have to make hay while the sun is out, because his sun won't be out for long. While Urban Meyer will want to get him work because he hasn't gotten much of late – just 24 carries in his last two games – but if this one gets as ugly as quickly as it could, he'll be limited again. Let's be honest, Hyde is 299 yards away from being Meyer's first 1,000-yard running back, and he could get it on Saturday if Meyer wanted. Instead, he'll let Hyde get his hundred, but he won't need him to go too far beyond that.
4. Illinois will have one good drive against the starters, and two good ones against the backups. The Illini will dink and dunk, and then take a shot or two. They will probably have success early on, as is the norm for offenses like this. The key will be for them to not have a drop on third down, or negative play early on. After some early success, however, I expect the Ohio State defense to put the clamps on. And then, throughout the third quarter, the backups will come into the game for the Buckeyes and battle the Illinois starters. Meyer and his staff want to build the depth, and one way to do that is by putting the younger players in stressful situations. Fortunately for them, the stress in this game is easily relieved if something goes awry.
5. Even with windy conditions, the Buckeyes will throw the ball more than they run it in the first half. It seems the game plan when the Buckeyes know that they have an opponent severely overmatched is to get as many passes up early in the game as possible, because there won't be many being thrown in the second half. Ohio State's short passing game should negate the wind for the most part.
Bonus: Illinois will be held under 50 yards rushing. The Illini don't really try to run the ball, and barring a run of 30 yards or so, I don't see them cracking 50 yards in this game, especially when you factor in the tackles for loss that will come. For comparison's sake, Michigan State held Illinois to 25 yards on 21 carries. Wisconsin, Penn State and Southern Illinois also held them under 100 yards rushing.
Bonus: Devin Smith will catch a touchdown. I know this doesn't sound like much of a prediction, but Smith has gone two games without a touchdown, which is his longest drought of the season. Of course, had he been permitted to play four quarters in either of the last two games, there's a pretty good chance that he would have found the endzone in both games.
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