Sometimes when your back is up against the wall, you are able to do things that you did not know you could do. That will hopefully be the case this weekend, as the Illinois Fighting Illini have found themselves in a very tough test, as #3 The Ohio State University visits Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Illinois for a Big Ten matchup that could get out of hand early.
Head coach Urban Meyer will be looking to add another one to the win column and run their winning streak to a nation leading 22 games, and a big reason they could do that is because of their stellar defense.
This team features the third best run defense at 88.2 yards per game, and that is not even the most important stat coming in to the game. Thus far in the season, Ohio State has yet to allow a runner to rack up 100 yards, and they have not allowed a rushing play of 20 yards or greater to materialize.
Just nine games in to the year, that has to be one of the most staggering feats by this defense.
The defensive leaders on the line are junior Ryan Shazier and Sophomore Noah Spence. These two rank in the top five in the Big Ten for tackles for loss and are a big reason this team’s run defense is so strong.
The run defense is not the only bright spot for this team, though, as their overall numbers are just as impressive.
Sitting at eighth nationally in scoring defense, only giving up 17 points per game, and tenth in total defense at 311.7 yards per game, this team can shut down an offense almost at will this year.
Buckeye fans have to love the job that the secondary is doing this year, as they are led by senior CJ Barnett and junior All-American Bradley Roby. This team is no slouch in the passing game, and that is shown by junior Doran Grant, who leads the team with three interceptions.
Thus far, the Buckeyes have gotten a pick in every single game this year, which will challenge good quarterbacks, like Nathan Scheelhaase, to move the ball down the field on them. The 26 sacks they have amassed, which ranks second in the Big Ten, does not help matters for opponents either.
Coming in to Champaign this weekend, a team that has allowed only fourteen points total in their last two games will be looking to continue that trend, and the Illini know what is at hand.
One way or another, one of these teams will have a streak continued. Whether the Buckeye’s winning streak continues or the Illini’s losing streak continues, something has to give.
I wish I could say it will be like 2007. The Illini went in to Columbus, Ohio and shocked the world.
With the level that the Buckeye’s are playing right now, it would take a similar miracle this weekend, but on a much larger scale. The Illini defense looks lost out there, and the offense can and will be able to only do so much against this defense.
If you get squeamish, you may not want to turn on the TV this weekend, as the Illini may have a long day on Saturday.
Prediction: The offense gets a little going, someone will finally rush for 20 yards in one play against the Buckeyes, but Ohio State continues to march to the National Championship game. The Ohio State University 52, Illinois 14
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