This Saturday, the Illinois Fighting Illini will host their toughest Big Ten opponent this season when the Ohio State Buckeyes come to Champaign.
Illinois has lost their last five games, and the Illini defense has given up 40 or more points in three of those five losses. That shouldn’t sit well with Illini fans because the Buckeyes can make teams pay if given the opportunity. OSU’s offense is ranked 5th overall in scoring (48.2 points per game) and has scored 50 or more points in their past wins over Penn State and Purdue.
If the Buckeyes are going to beat down on the Illini this weekend, they are going to do it by running the football.
Ohio State’s run game is lead by senior running back Carlos Hyde who has been putting on a rushing clinic this season. In the team’s last victory over Purdue, he ran for 111 yards on eight carries and averaged 13.9 yards per carry. Hyde has rushed for over 100 yards in four straight games and is averaging 143.8 yards per game in those last four.
So far this season, Hyde has ran for 701 yards on 96 carries and has scored seven rushing touchdowns. He’s also caught eight passes for 64 yards and one touchdown.
As a team this season, Ohio State is averaging 301.1 rushing yards per game and is ranked 8th in the entire NCAA.
When it comes to the OSU passing attack, the team is led by junior quarterback Braxton Miller. Miller missed two of OSU’s game in mid-September, but has played in the team’s last five games without missing a beat.
In the team’s last victory over the Boilermakers, he threw for 233 yards, four touchdowns, and one interceptions.
So far this season, Miller has completed around 72.5% of his passes for 1,316 yards and has throw 15 touchdowns compared to three interceptions.
On top of the passing stats, Braxton Miller can run as well. In 2013, he has rushed for 410 yards and has scored twice this season on the ground.
Braxton Miller’s two main targets this season has been wide receivers Philly Brown and Devin Smith.
Both Brown and Smith have over 500 receiving yards this season while also averaging over 13 yards per reception. They have also combined for 14 of the Buckeyes 29 receiving touchdowns in 2013.
This Saturday could end up being a long day for Illinois defensively and Illini Nation.
This is because the one thing the Illini defense has not done well in their last five losses has been defending the run.
Illinois has allowed their last five conference opponents to rush for well over 100 yards with two of those opponents running for over 200 yards.
There is no doubt that the key of the game will be limiting the Buckeye rushing attack, but that is easier said than done.
Not only is Carlos Hyde a beast in the OSU backfield, but back running back Jordan Hall can get it done as well. Take those two running backs and add a quarterback like Braxton Miller with a coach like Urban Meyers, that all adds to to a possible “bad news bears” situation for the Fighting Illini.
Anything can happen in the Big Ten, but Illini Nation shouldn’t be holding their breath.
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