The Lantern sports editors share their insight on what fans should know about this weekend’s road matchup against Illinois.
1. Braxton Miller
Ohio State’s junior quarterback has been on fire in the last three games, throwing for 707 yards and nine touchdowns while completing a sizzling 79.7 percent of his passes. The only other time he has played in Champaign, Ill., though, Miller only completed one pass for 17 yards in the 17-7 victory. Now that he fully has a grasp on coach Urban Meyer’s offense and is fully healthy, Miller is thriving. Look for him to fill up the stat sheet again Saturday, as the Illini pass defense ranks 89th in the nation, giving up 243.1 yards per game through the air.
2. How many yards does Carlos Hyde gain on the ground?
After averaging 116.8 yards per game in his first six contests this season, senior running back Carlos Hyde will look to continue his push to become Meyer’s first 1,000-yard running back. The Fighting Illini have struggled stopping the run in 2013, ranking 117th in the nation in terms of rushing defense, giving up an average 239.6 yards per game. As a junior, Hyde ran for 137 yards and three touchdowns against Illinois. If the Buckeyes could jump out to a big lead early, as they did against Purdue, Hyde might be pulled for backup running backs, which could prevent him the opportunity to break 100 yards for the fifth straight game.
3. Can Nathan Scheelhaase keep the Illini in the game?
Although Illinois comes into Saturday with a winless conference record, redshirt-senior quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase is leading a passing attack ranked No. 24 in the country with 288.9 average yards per game through the air. The secondary has been suspect at points this season for the Buckeyes, who rank 48th in pass defense. Twice this season, OSU has allowed more than 300 passing yards in a single game, and Scheelhaase will be looking to take advantage of redshirt-junior cornerback Bradley Roby and company. Scheelhaase is leading the Big Ten in yards per game and is in the top three in both touchdowns and completion percentage so far this year. Last weekend against Indiana, Scheelhaase threw for a career-high 450 yards and will be hoping for a similar performance against OSU.
4. How many style points will Meyer try to earn?
OSU sits at No. 3 in the BCS rankings, a considerable .0693 points behind No. 2 Florida State. The Buckeyes moved up a spot without even playing a game last weekend, as then-No. 3 Oregon fell to Stanford. If they want to continue to gain on the Seminoles or No. 1 Alabama, outscoring their opponents by large margins might be the only way to do so. If the game is decided early, don’t be surprised if Meyer keeps the foot on the pedal in order to impress the voters.
5. Does Jordan Hall see the field?
Figuring out how much redshirt-senior running back Jordan Hall will play has been a mystery for OSU fans all season. After receiving a majority of the first team snaps while Hyde was suspended for three games because of his involvement in an incident at a Columbus bar in July, Hall has been limited since Hyde’s return, if he even plays. Hall has carried the ball a total of 15 times in the four games he has played since Hyde’s return. Hall has been dealing with a knee injury since the Northwestern game Oct. 5, missing two games including the Buckeyes’ last matchup, against Purdue Nov. 2. Hall practiced with the team and should be ready to go for the Buckeyes Saturday, although it remains to be seen how much he will play.