Tag Archives: Illinois

Buckeyes look back at Penn State, ahead to Illinois

Ohio State’s preparation for its eighth game of the season began Monday with the typical press conferences at the Woody Hayes Athletics Center.

Coach Urban Meyer was asked about the release of the first College Football Playoff standings (to be released Tuesday night) and said he felt style points will count the same now as they did in the BCS (video).

There are bigger concerns after an undermanned Penn State squad pushed the Buckeyes to the brink of their first conference loss before Ohio State prevailed in double overtime, 31-24.

Ohio State running backs coach Stan Drayton
Ohio State running backs coach Stan Drayton

Meyer hopes that adversity — coming on the heels of four straight blowouts — will help his young Ohio State squad improve as the middle of the season turns into the stretch run.

“You just were in a street fight, and you’re winning,” Meyer said. “You started getting your tail kicked and you came back and won. That builds toughness.” (Read more)

Meanwhile, assistant coaches Stan Drayton and Kerry Coombs talked about their takeaways from the game after Meyer was finished. Drayton and Coombs both agreed they were proud of the way the Buckeyes responded to adversity in overtime, but Drayton admitted issues with execution were a factor in the struggles of the offense in the second half. For a full rundown of what they had to say, click here.

2014 Big Ten football picks

I think this will be one of the better Big Tens we’ve seen in the past decade or so, but I’m not sure there is an elite team in the league. There should be depth, and that could set things up for a strong 2015, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Ohio State is rebuilding on defense, but that unit could hardly be worse than it was when the ’13 season concluded, so it’s hard to count that as a negative. Michigan State’s offense was a sore spot early last season but finished on a high and returns almost everyone of consequence. They’ll have some new faces on the offensive line, but that unit wasn’t great anyway so they can probably get by with an average front again this season all things considered. Teams may play them differently now that Connor Cook is a known commodity, though. How he responds to that will tell a large part of the tale this season. Recent conference history is littered with quarterbacks who looked good early in their career but plateaued. Big Ten logo

Michigan State is, pardon the pun, green in some spots on defense, and it is unlikely the Spartans will be as tough there regardless of how good coaches Mark Dantonio and Pat Narduzzi have proven to be on that side of the ball. The same can be said of Ohio State’s offensive line, though, so it all could be a wash when the teams play Nov. 8. Continue reading 2014 Big Ten football picks

Big Ten West spring football review

After a bit of a delay for some NFL draft coverage, we have finally wrapped up our spring review for Big Ten football at BuckeyeSports.com. Big Ten logo

Earlier we took a look at the East. Now comes the West, which should have an interesting race.

Iowa and Minnesota both showed great improvement last season while Nebraska and Wisconsin have questions but remain contenders.  Continue reading Big Ten West spring football review

Saban still Ohio State’s worst secondary coach statistically

In case you were wondering, Nick Saban is still the worst secondary coach in Ohio State history – at least statistically.

The 2013 Buckeyes came close to setting a record for most passing yards allowed per game at 268.0 but fell short of the mark of 273.1 yielded in 1981.

Ohio State lines up to try to stop Purdue one last time

Saban was Ohio State secondary coach that season as well as in 1980, when the Buckeyes allowed a school-record 621 yards passing in a game to David Wilson of Illinois. The only other 500-yard passing game by an Ohio State opponent also happened under Saban’s watch in ’81 at Purdue via quarterback Scott Campbell.

Head coach Earle Bruce fired Saban (along with defensive coordinator Dennis Fryzel and line coach Steve Szabo) after the ’81 campaign, but the Kent State graduate recovered nicely, as you may have heard.

He got his revenge on Ohio State in 1998 when as head coach at Michigan State he led an upset of what for my money is the best Buckeye team of the past 25 years at least. Oh yeah, then he won a total of four national championships at LSU and Alabama. Saban also was head coach at Toledo and served four seasons as defensive coordinator of the Browns before becoming the big boss of the Spartans.

As for his time in Columbus, Saban told the American Football Coaches Association convention last month the most memorable victory of his career was the Buckeyes’ 14-9 upset of No. 7 Michigan in 1981. Saban’s secondary was key in that victory as safety Todd Bell’s late interception prevented the Wolverines from adding to a 9-7 lead in the fourth quarter. Art Schlichter then engineered the game-winning touchdown drive for the Buckeyes.

My 2012 Big Ten Football Picks

You should check out the Buckeye Sports Bulletin football preview issue for my full view of the race, but here is how I see the top of each division shaking out. 

The Division That Should Be the West: 

Michigan, Michigan State and Nebraska should stage an interesting battle for divisional supremacy.

MSU head coach Mark Dantonio will miss All-American defensive tackle Jerel Worthy, but the front seven is remarkably deep as several years of strong recruiting seem to be paying off on the line and at linebacker. Worthy was a fine player, but some of his success might have been a product of the overall quality of the unit. William Gholston has the makings of an even bigger star at defensive end while Max Bullough and Denicos Allen are special talents at linebacker.

There are major questions on the other side of the ball in East Lansing, but I think they can get by with a so-so scoring unit thanks to the ‘D’. Dantonio claims to have supreme confidence in sophomore Andrew Maxwell, but he is an unknown at this point. All of his targets at receiver and tight end will be new, too, but new wideouts DeAnthony Arnett and Tony Lippett along with tight end Dion Sims are considered potential playmakers.

Junior running back Le’Veon Bell is an impact running back, but the Spartans have questions on the offensive front. Continue reading My 2012 Big Ten Football Picks

Ohio State-Illinois Second Thoughts

I re-watched the Buckeyes’ 17-7 win over the Fighting Illini so you didn’t have to… 

The game ball certainly goes to the tailbacks. I counted at least four times Boom Herron or Jordan Hall were dead in the sights of a defensive player but made him miss, either turning a potential loss into a positive play or stretching a short gain into something longer. Both of them have impressive vision, quickness and agility. Zach Boren was his usual destructive self leading the way. He had a heck of a battle with Illinois’ Jonathan Brown, who I think proved himself to be a stud.

I think I owe Jim Bollman an apology for asking why there were no counters. I believe they tried to run one in the first quarter but Miller and Herron ran into each other. Hard to tell who was at fault on that play, but it seems more likely it was the freshman quarterback who made the mistake. They also went with a couple of counter trey’s while running out the clock at the end of the game.

Big shoutout also to the tight ends, who all had really effective moments blocking on the edge. Jake Stoneburner not only showed off his receiving and route running skills on his touchdown catch, he also continues to improve as a blocker.

Both tackles had some problems with the quickness of the Illinois defensive ends, but they also did good things when they could get their hands on those guys. That is particularly true of Mike Adams, who has become more of a road grader than I expected him to because I thought his game was more about athleticism until late last season. Andrew Norwell did not have the best day inside. I think those two are still working on getting on the same page, and he is still getting used to the different angles at guard. Very different style from Illinois than he saw last week against Nebraska. At the other guard, Jack Mewhort had a big challenge against Akeem Spence and did a pretty good job overall.

Not sure if any wide receivers actually took the field. They certainly had no impact. Stoneburner lined up in the slot a lot, and Boren was out there a few times as well. Boren said he played 55 plays, which would be all of them for OSU.

Defensively, you have to take your hat off to Johnny Simon. I marked down 11 plays he had a noticeably positive impact on the play, which is a pretty ridiculously high number for a defensive lineman. He is a stud whose effort was never in question but seems to be gaining skill every week.

Johnathan Hankins was nearly flawless, too. His strength and agility are ridiculous and he makes plays whether the ball is run his way or not.

Really, the whole defensive front played well aside from Solomon Thomas, who made a couple of appearances at Leo or “viper” in the dime defense and looked out of place. Good things from Adam Bellamy and Michael Bennett, however.

The linebackers were much better against the Fighting Illini than the Cornhuskers. Andrew Sweat and Storm Klein were solid while Etienne Sabino had the best game I’ve seen him play. He tackled better and was in better position most of the day.

Illinois definitely a defense built for speed, although there are a handful of guys on the team that seem to have bulked up, too, including both of those ends.

Barnett was almost exclusively the safety in the box while Bryant played deep when he wasn’t at Star. I am interested to know why they did this. I think Barnett is suitably skilled to play both positions, and I wonder if they dropped Bryant to the back to get him to see more of the field and force him to play more under control. Be interesting to see if that was some kind of lesson or if that is a permanent move.

Travis Howard was knocked during the game for giving up a handful of catches, but I think generally that was a result of having to bail in coverage. He looked good pressing A.J. Jenkins a few times and was there for the interception in the fourth quarter. You already know Bradley Roby had a big day.

Finally, I was surprised at how uncomfortable Braxton Miller looked in the pocket, although the pass rush obviously had an effect. I think the lack of opportunities ruined any chance he had of getting into any kind of rhythm. The coaches were wise to respect the wind, as evidenced by Roby’s interception that took off on Nathan Scheelhaase, but I still think a handful of short passes to get Miller going would have been a good idea.