With temperatures dipping close to 30 degrees, it was cold and it was windy, but the elements didn’t seem to affect the Ohio State offense Saturday night as it rolled to a 55-14 win over the Illinois Fighting Illini.
The Buckeyes’ defense also continued to improve, holding Illinois scoreless for more than half the game.
The Lantern sports editors also survived the cold elements and have come up with a list of five things they learned from the game.
1. J.T. Barrett has room to improve
Against a less than impressive defense, Barrett looked just average against Illinois Saturday night.
While the redshirt-freshman completed 15-24 passes for 167 yards and two scores in just a half of football, he also missed multiple wide open throws that could have gone for big plays.
Barrett struggled mightily against Penn State last week, and looked just OK in a game where most expected him to get quality minutes and improve.
Heading into the biggest game of the year against No. 7 Michigan State, the Buckeyes are going to need Barrett to play his best game to have a chance to win.
If not, the team goal of playing for championships in November could very quickly come to an end.
2. The “Silver Bullet” defense is taking shape
I know, it was against Illinois. And I know the Fighting Illini played their second- and third-string quarterbacks, but you have to admit, the Buckeye defense has improved.
Last year, the Buckeyes gave up 35 to Illinois in a game that was closer than the final score would indicate.
Saturday, the OSU defense surrendered just 243 offensive yards to Illinois, as opposed to the 420 it gave up last season.
Sophomore defensive lineman Joey Bosa is dominating every offensive lineman that gets in his way, while young linebackers like redshirt-freshman Darron Lee and freshman Raekwon McMillan are developing quickly.
But will it be enough to slow down a MSU offense averaging 45.5 points per game? Only time will tell.
3. Freshman running back Curtis Samuel is earning more carries
Samuel not only made his first start Saturday, he showed that he might even be better than sophomore running back Ezekiel Elliott.
After a great weak of practice, according to multiple coaches, Samuel earned the start and worked his way into the end zone twice in the first half against Illinois.
While Samuel might have earned the start, there is no question the Buckeyes will need both him and Elliott in order to take down the Spartans next week.
With Rod Smith gone after reportedly being dismissed from the team, and redshirt-sophomore Bri’onte Dunn still nursing injury, the two backs will likely earn close to equal carries moving forward this season.
4. This team didn’t look past Illinois, but now it can
Based off of their 31-0 halftime lead, the Buckeyes didn’t have any issue focusing on the Fighting Illini.
Even though the team didn’t necessarily run like a well-oiled machine throughout the game, the performance was not one of a team looking ahead to the Spartans. From Samuel’s 23-yard touchdown on the first drive of the game to redshirt-sophomore quarterback Cardale Jones’ play in the second half, OSU seemed motivated from start to finish.
If that kind of motivation and momentum can carry over, the Buckeyes should have a legitimate shot at beating Michigan State this weekend.
5. Co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tom Herman isn’t afraid to mix things up
Not only did Herman allow Jones to sling the ball in the second half instead of simply trying to kill the clock, but he even let redshirt-freshman H-back Jalin Marshall test his arm strength.
While Marshall didn’t complete his lone attempt, it gave the Spartans and any other future opponents for OSU an additional thing to think about. Marshall was a quarterback in high school — and even had a chance to play the position in college had he not picked OSU — and now teams have to think twice about what he might do if he ever lines up in the wildcat going forward.
The chance to throw was clearly being set up for a few weeks, and now that it’s out in the open, Marshall is just that much more dangerous when he steps on the field.
The Buckeyes are set to take on Michigan State on Saturday in East Lansing, Mich. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. at Spartan Stadium.