November 2, 2012

Tale of the Tape: Illinois

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Untitled Document

Head Coach:

Tim Beckman

2011 Record: 7-6 Big Ten


Champaign (Ill.)

Kickoff: 3:30 pm EDT Television: ESPN Location: Ohio Stadium (102,329)

When Ohio St. has the ball...

  • Rushing Defense: 152.63 Ypg. (55th)

  • Passing Defense: 213.25 Ypg. (44th)

  • Scoring Defense: 30.75 Ppg. (86th)
  • Rushing Offense: 247.89 Ypg. (10th)

  • Passing Offense: 183.89 Ypg. (102nd)

  • Scoring Offense: 38.56 Ppg. (21st)

  • Illinois Defensive Backs

    Ohio State Skill Positions (QB/WR/TE)
    The Illini pass defense has put up 'middle of the road numbers' this season but for the last four Big Ten games the unit has not been tested all that much with teams averaging 23 pass attempts per game. During that time teams have completed 62-percent of their passes and Illinois has given up seven passing TDs in those four games. Terry Hawthorne and Justin Green are both solid cornerbacks but Illinois' has not been able to generate much of a pass rush which has made the job of the secondary that much more difficult. I would not expect to see the Buckeyes punish the secondary based upon where the passing game is but there should be some plays there if they want them. Last week the Ohio State pass offense didn't put up huge numbers but it did just enough to win. Braxton Miller started off very slow in the game and was held to 7/19 passing for 143 yards and 72 of those yards came on a TD strike to Jake Stoneburner. Usually the tandem of Corey Brown and Devin Smith are heavily involved in the passing game and neither wideout had a reception in the game. Miller seemed to come out in the Penn State game too 'excited' and had bad footwork and didn't make the right decisions. Can Miller, Smith and Brown all get on the same page on Saturday?

    Illinois Linebackers

    Ohio State Running Backs
    Illinois has run into troubles stopping the run when it comes to a team with multiple rushing threats. Michigan punished the Illini to the tune of 353 yards on the ground with Denard Robinson going for 128 yards on his own at a clip of 11.6 YPC. On the base depth chart the Illini play in a nickel and have two LBs listed with Jonathan Brown as the WLB and freshman Mason Monheim at the MLB. Ashante Williams is listed at the star but is much closer to being a DB than a LB at 5-11, 205. The Illini will know that the Buckeyes are going to run but will it matter? Expect Illinois to have some early success but to wear out as Ohio State continues to pound the ball throughout the game. Carlos Hyde was held in check for the most part against Penn State but the Nittany Lions had one of the nation's top run defenses. This week shouldn't be as much of an uphill climb for Hyde or back-up Rod Smith. That doesn't mean that the Illini will just step aside and let the Buckeyes run but the truth is that the Buckeye rush game will be too much for the Illini to stop for four quarters. With the tandem of backs and Miller chipping in, this game has all the makings of Ohio State's 3rd 300-plus yard game on the ground, especially with Ohio State's passing woes. This could be derailed if the Ohio State passing game is unable to force the Illini to respect the threat, if only just a little.

    Illinois Defensive Line


    Ohio State Offensive Line
    Illinois may have three seniors on the defensive line with Michael Buchanan leading the way but the Illini lost a lot off of the line in the past couple of seasons and the new coaching staff is still trying to plug players into the right spots and get better from week to week. The issue is the defense has not been able get opponents offenses off of the field, other than after a point-after try and that is not a good thing. Illinois is 11 out of 12 in tackles for loss this season and 9 out of 12 in sacks. While that isn't an 'absolute' predictor of success, it does show that the Illini have not been able to alter plays and harass the quarterback and opposing teams (save Western Michigan and Charleston Southern) have made the Illini pay, and pay in a big way. Ohio State's offensive line continues to play well and this should be a solid week for the Buckeyes with a defense that doesn't have a pedigree in 2012 of getting much pressure. The challenge for Jack Mewhort and the rest of the line however is how to protect Miller when he extends plays and runs out of the pocket. Miller's health will be a concern more now than ever and for the remainder of the season after getting knocked out of the Purdue game. Center Corey Linsley had some issues at Penn State with some high snaps, including one he airmailed over Carlos Hyde in the 'wildcat' formation. All of the offensive success in the world means nothing if you turn the ball over and that is something that the Buckeyes have been working on. Special mention to Andrew Norwell for continuing at a high level.

    When Illinois has the ball...

  • Rushing Offense: 132.50 Ypg. (88th)

  • Passing Offense: 184.88 Ypg. (101st)

  • Scoring Offense: 18.00 Ppg. (115th)

  • Rushing Defense: 111.67 Ypg. (20th)

  • Passing Defense: 277.89 Ypg. (107th)

  • Scoring Defense: 24.11 Ppg. (50th)

  • Illinois Skill Positions (QB/WR/TE)

    Ohio State Defensive Backs
    The passing game for the Illini has been a non factor in 2012 with Nathan Scheelhaase throwing for more INTs than TDs. He has split time with Reilly O'Toole and neither have been great but O'Toole's numbers on the surface were better but against worse competition. Scheelhaase is more of a dual threat signal caller but his numbers on the ground have not been very good as well. Ryan Lankford leads the Illini with five receiving TDs and 29 catches. Donovonn Young has 27 receptions but only for 131 yards. Illinois can spread the ball around with six double-digit receptions but Lankford is the go-to guy. Tight end Eddie Viliunas is a short yardage threat with two short TDs. It is no secret that Ohio State's pass defense has been beaten up throughout the season. Last weekend the Nittany Lions passed for 327 yards along with two touchdowns, which both seem to be very high but Penn State was also forced to attempt 46 passes when the Ohio State run defense shut down the ground game. Bradley Roby was credited with seven PBUs in a game, a stat that is almost hard to even believe while the rest of the secondary is doing a much better job of taking care of their responsibilities in space. Fortunately for Ohio State, the team will not face another prolific passing team the rest of the way this season but that doesn't mean the secondary can just relax and coast to the finish line.

    Illinois Running Backs

    Ohio State Linebackers
    Illinois has a pair of young running backs in Donovonn Young and Josh Ferguson. For all of the promise of the two backs the truth is the pair have accounted for two total touchdowns (Scheelhaase has three on his own via the run). The Illini are averaging 3.4 YPC and have only had a rusher break the 100-yard plateau just twice this season (Young did it last week against Indiana). The X-Factor will be what Scheelhaase is able to do on the ground. The Buckeye defense has focused so much on short passing and screens, will the Buckeyes need to put a spy on the Illinois QB or how will they try and approach this different type of attack that the Illini could bring to the table. The Illini really have nothing to lose in this game and could get creative in trying to get the ball into space and force the Buckeyes to tackle... but can planning lead to execution?

    The Ohio State linebackers could get healthier after this game (and the upcoming bye week) but for now it will be on Ryan Shazier and Zach Boren to carry the load. The move of Nathan Williams to the linebacker group in certain formations has helped the cause as well with Noah Spence growing into a capable player as a true freshman. One thing that can't be denied is that the Buckeyes are doing well against the run. The unit has still given up an occasional big play here and there and that has hurt some of the averages but when you dissect a game, the run defense is one of the best performing facets of the Ohio State game. The challenge this week will be not getting complacent and expecting to see the Illinois offense on Saturday that has been on the tape from weeks before.

    Illinois Offensive Line
    Ohio State Defensive Line
    Illinois has given up 30 sacks on the season including six to Indiana last week. Graham Pocic and Hugh Thornton are the only two seniors on the line and are joined by two sophomores and a freshman. The line is 300 pounds across the board outside of right tackle Simon Cvijanovic who just misses the cut at 295 pounds. Ultimately the issue is that the line has not been very good at pass protection or run blocking at this point and teams are attacking the line with great success and that has led to Illinois' woes. Ohio State's defensive line had great success against Penn State when the staff decided to send help and blitz the Nittany Lions. Will John Simon and Johnathan Hankins and the rest of the line get help like that this week? We tend to think that the Buckeyes will be aggressive with the defense and not allow an offense with little confidence to gain anything to build on. This is a game that the Buckeyes just need to jump on the Illini and take their legs out from them early and not allow them to hang around. Look for Ohio State to have one of its best days when it comes to pressure.

    Special teams matchups...

  • Net Punting: 38.98 Avg (34th).

  • Punt Returns: 1.77 Yds/Ret (117th)

  • Kickoff Returns: 16.15 Avg. (115th)

  • Field Goals: 4-8 (50%)

  • Net Punting: 35.45 Avg. (88th)

  • Punt Returns: 9.18 Yds/Ret (52nd)

  • Kickoff Returns: 20.48 Avg. (79th)

  • Field Goals: 3-5 (60%)

  • Illinois Special Teams

    Ohio State Special Teams
    Illinois is good at punting but that is a product of having to punt as much as they have. When it comes to returns on both the kick and the punt, the Illini have been near the bottom of the nation. Field goals have not been there as well for the Illini. In short, special teams have been on par with the rest of the game for Illinois this year, below average. If you took the three blocked punts away from Ohio State's special teams then things would be pretty good overall with Urban Meyer's attention to the units. But you can't escape the fact that Ohio State has given up three 'game changing' moments with blocks and then gave up a 100-yard kickoff return. Right now the Buckeyes special teams are performing better than Illinois' but both teams are capable of a meltdown.


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