25 words or fewer: The only thing perfect about Ohio State is its record, but a victory by any means against Michigan State would be considered perfecto.

>> Photos from before, during and after Ohio State's victory at Illinois

25 words or fewer

The only thing perfect about Ohio State is its record, but a victory by any means against Michigan State would be considered perfecto.

In the polls and CFP

The Buckeyes lost their grip on their remaining No.1 spot on Sunday when the coaches' poll dropped them to No.2 behind Clemson. They had fallen behind Clemson the week before in the Associated Press media poll, and remained there Sunday, followed by Alabama, Oklahoma State and Notre Dame. Of course, the only ranking that matters now is that of the College Football Playoff committee, which has had OSU No.3 in its first two versions, with the third to come out Tuesday night.

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Who's hot?

Running back Ezekiel Elliott, who climbed over Tim Spencer to No.3 on the OSU career rushing list behind Archie Griffin and Eddie George with 3,565 yards after his 181 at Illinois. Of that, 131 came in the second half as the Buckeyes, challenged to protect quarterback J.T. Barrett when he wanted to pass, still were able to knock enough Illini defenders out of the way to spring Elliott and Barrett (74 yards rushing). Elliott's 16 touchdowns rushing and 1,425 yards on the season are the best in the Big Ten, and his 142.5-yard average per game is ranked sixth nationally.

What's not hot?

Consistent pass protection. It's not all on the veteran offensive line, but a lot of it is. Coach Urban Meyer was just a couple of sentences into his postgame synopsis when he brought it up. It is the one thing keeping the Buckeyes from having a complete offense. Here comes Michigan State with its talented defensive front intent on giving the Buckeyes' pass protection their toughest challenge yet.

What went right?

The defense, led by Joey Bosa and Tyquan Lewis, got after the Illini from the jump. The aggression appears to be growing from week to week. More important, the ability to keep the other team out of the end zone is trending. The Buckeyes, now No.2 in the nation in scoring defense (13.8-point average) behind Wisconsin (12.3), have given up just 17 touchdowns all season, and just four - all passing - in the past four games.

Back to the drawing board

If part of the plan at Illinois was just to get Braxton Miller's feet wet a week after he was slammed to the turf and suffered a neck strain, then mission accomplished. He had two catches for minus-4 yards on a couple of short pass plays. If there was more to the plan than that, well, the Buckeyes are headed into game 11 with the season in the balance. Maybe the Miller package was lost in shipment.

Dinged up

Ohio State backup outside linebacker Chris Worley couldn't play after being injured in practice the week before, and that suddenly became crucial when Darron Lee was stunned temporarily by a blindside block. Freshman Jerome Baker went in for him. But Lee returned the next play.

Catch that?

It probably was the most telling video clip circulating on Saturday: Bosa pushing off an Illinois offensive lineman, then grabbing a running back in the backfield and putting him down during the second half. Bosa said going into the game he wants to reach an unblockable level by the time this season is done. He made huge strides in that direction at Illinois.

Up next

Michigan State (13th in last week's CFP rankings), which was walking the unbeaten tightrope for eight games before falling off at Nebraska two games ago. The Spartans bounced back with a 24-7 victory over Maryland, but paid a price. Senior quarterback Connor Cook did not play in the second half because of a shoulder injury, but the Ohio native told reporters he expects to play at Ohio State. This hasn't been the formidable Michigan State of the past couple of seasons, this year sitting 61st nationally in total offense and 46th in total defense.

This week's challenge

Where Michigan State has been more vulnerable this season is in pass defense. But can the Buckeyes fix what's wrong with its pass protection in time to take advantage of a team that still has one of the more feared pass-rushers in the country in Shilique Calhoun? Ultimately, the goal for the Buckeyes from this point is win and advance by any means necessary. Being in the top four in the CFP on Dec.6 is all that matters.



Coming up

Next game: vs. Michigan State

When: 3:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Ohio Stadium

TV: ABC (Ch. 6)

Radio: WBNS-FM/AM (97.1/1460)