COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The march through the conference and toward perfection rolls right along for Ohio State.
Illinois barely even slowed it down.
The Illini hung around for about a quarter, but it didn’t take long for the Buckeyes to shift their offense into high gear with another dynamic outing from Braxton Miller that complemented a dominant defensive performance in a 52-22 demolition on Saturday afternoon at Ohio Stadium.
Now a bye week and two more games are all that stand between Urban Meyer and a 12-0 campaign in his first season with the program.
It was over when: Rolling to his right, throwing back to the left and deep down the sideline, Miller’s 51-yard pass settled into the hands of running back Rod Smith on a wheel route and the rout was on for the Buckeyes. Miller typically does most of his damage on the ground, but it was his perfect strike through the air with a little more than five minutes left in the first half that effectively put away the Illini.
Game ball goes to: After a relatively ugly outing throwing the ball the week before, Miller heard plenty about how he needed to clean up his fundamentals and deliver an accurate football for the Ohio State offense to reach its potential. Apparently that message was received loud and clear as he routinely made the proper read and drilled his targets on the way to 226 yards and two touchdowns without an interception.
Stat of the game: The Buckeyes kept the Illini in bad situations on third down, but it hardly seemed to matter how far the latter needed to go to move the chains -- Illinois couldn’t do it. In all, the Illini picked up just two conversions in 13 attempts on third down when the Ohio State starters were in the game, struggling mightily to mount a consistent threat in the process.
How the game was won: The Buckeyes controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, consistently opening huge holes for running back Carlos Hyde and blowing up a handful of plays in the Illinois backfield with another aggressive defensive game plan. Ohio State had shown flaws in previous games while rolling to nine consecutive wins, but the 10th of the year was perhaps its most complete outing in every phase.
What it means: Heading into their long-awaited bye week, the Buckeyes are playing their best football of the season and have a chance to get healthier and stronger with just two games standing between them and a perfect record. In particular, Ohio State is expected to get linebacker Etienne Sabino back in time for a trip to Wisconsin, restoring a bit of depth to a defense that is thriving thanks to a scheme relying on man coverage and pressure packages.
Illinois, meanwhile, has another chance to go back to the drawing board after failing to come up with any answers on offense or defense in another lopsided loss that leaves it winless in the Big Ten in five league games under Tim Beckman.