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What’s up next for the Buckeyes? Just The Game, followed by the Big Ten championship game with College Football Playoff hopes riding shotgun. That’s all.
In the polls/CFP
The Buckeyes remained No. 8 in both major polls after a no-upsets weekend. Whether they will rise from No. 9 in the College Football Playoff rankings Tuesday remains to be seen, but the games that ultimately will decide their fate are dead ahead.
J.T. Barrett in the career milestones category. With two touchdown passes against Illinois he extended his Big Ten record to 101. With 12,149 yards of total offense, Barrett, with at least three games to play, is within striking distance of the Big Ten record (12,692) held by Drew Brees.
What’s even hotter?
The running game, powered by an offensive line led by senior center Billy Price and fueled by the running of Mike Weber, J.K. Dobbins, Barrett and Antonio Williams. With Weber leading the way (108 yards), the Buckeyes ran for 325 against the Illini. In the past two games, including vs. Michigan State, which had the No. 3 defense against the run in the nation, Ohio State has rushed for a combined 660 yards and eight touchdowns. OSU is No. 1 in the Big Ten in rushing (252.5 average), 12th in the nation.
What’s standing tall?
The defense that, after giving up 48 of Iowa’s 55 points in the lopsided upset three games ago, has given up just one TD and 10 points in the past two games. The Buckeyes limited Illinois’ makeshift offense to 16 yards passing. That’s the third time this season OSU has held an opponent to fewer than 20 yards passing (Army 19, Maryland 16).
Who didn’t catch Urban Meyer’s disappointment after he watched backup QB Dwayne Haskins Jr. fumble out in the flat, with the Illini scooping and scoring for their first TD. Meyer sent Barrett and the starters back in, with some of the linemen returning despite having already cut the tape from their ankles. Joe Burrow then went in at quarterback ahead of Haskins. Whether it was a battlefield promotion remains to be seen.
Michigan, which suffered its third Big Ten loss at Wisconsin. In the third year under Jim Harbaugh, the Wolverines have struggled to find consistent offense in the losses that include Michigan State and Penn State. The switch to freshman quarterback Brandon Peters from John O’Korn a couple of games ago appeared to breathe life into the attack, but Peters was knocked out on the field at Wisconsin and his status for Saturday isn’t clear.
This week’s challenge
It’s going to be finding yards against a Michigan defense that is No. 3 in the nation in fewest yards allowed (261.2 per game). The Buckeyes are No. 4 in total offense (546.2). But they know Michigan is on a salvage operation and that Harbaugh — 1-4 combined against main rivals Michigan State and Ohio State — needs a win to dampen the unrest. A sixth straight loss to Ohio State, and 14th in the last 16 meetings, would not go down well.