Ohio State Buckeyes Defense Cannot Sleep on Illinois QB Nathan Scheelhaase

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Updated: November 16, 2013

Nobody in the country is giving Illinois a fighting chance at home against The Ohio State Buckeyes on Saturday afternoon. While this is probably true, those of us who have followed the Buckeyes know that no game is a guarantee win—especially when the opposing team has one of the top passing attacks in the nation.

Quarterbacked by senior Nathan Scheelhaase, Illinois is currently ranked No. 25 in the nation at 288.9 yards passing per game. Scheelhaase has completed 65.2 percent of his passes on the season for 2,420 yards, 15 touchdowns and eight interceptions on the season. He is also a threat to run, as he has rushed for nearly 2,000 yards and 18 touchdowns in his career.

The Fighting Illini haven’t been very good at all this season (currently sitting at 3-6), but in their three wins against lesser opponents, Scheelhaase went off. He completed 77.8 percent of his passes for 416 yards and two touchdowns against Southern Illinois, 70.3 percent of his passes for 312 yards and four touchdowns against Cincinnati and 79.2 percent of his passes for 278 yards and five touchdowns against Miami of Ohio. While none of these are exactly Ohio State, it shows the opportunity to explode for a big game is there for Scheelhaase and the Illini.

Practicing the “bend don’t break” defense for the majority of the season, Buckeyes defensive coordinator Luke Fickell has a defense that has been torched by opposing passing games—until recently. What was once a major disappointment has turned into standout part of the defense against lesser opponents. The Buckeyes have allowed just 14 points and just over 300 yards combined through the air against the likes of Penn State and Purdue in their last two games—allowing just 89 to Purdue.

The question Buckeyes fans need to ask themselves is whether the defense is growing, or is this just a product of lesser competition? This writer is going with a combination of both, but leaning toward the lesser competition as a bigger reason. With that said, this defense better not sleep on Illinois on Saturday.

In regard to the offense, the Buckeyes are the opposite of the philosophy that a “good offense is a good defense”. In fact, in Columbus a good offense is in fact a good offense, as head coach Urban Meyer’s spread offense is currently No. 7 in the nation in yards (530.9 per game), No. 8 in rushing (301.1 per game) and No. 5 in scoring (48.2 per game). It may be contrary to the way football has been played at Ohio State through the years, but the best way for Meyer’s group to keep winning football games is to put up touchdowns in bunches.

Currently sitting at No. 3 in the polls, every single football game for the Buckeyes will be an attempt to show strength—so don’t expect Meyer to go easy on Illinois if he jumps out to a lead early. The voters enjoy “statement” games, so when you are playing against inferior competition you better make a statement each time you step on to the field. This is why you can expect Braxton Miller to be going on all cylinders on Saturday—strengthening his Heisman Trophy candidacy and the Buckeyes National Championship hopes in the process.

Prediction

Buckeyes Win, 63-28

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