Barrett, Ohio State prepare for Michigan State with drubbing of Illinois
COLUMBUS -- Urban Meyer might not admit it, but this past week was the perfect scenario to get his team ready for its biggest game of the year.
After the double overtime survival in Happy Valley and being ranked 16th in the first College Football Playoff standings, Ohio State had a bit of a chip on its shoulder going into Saturday's game against Illinois. There was also a lot of emphasis on different things that Meyer and his team needed to work on.
Whatever frustrations the Buckeyes had, they took it out on the Illini as they rolled to a 55-14 win at Ohio Stadium. Once far off in the distance, next week's matchup at East Lansing against the Spartans is now directly in front of them.
"I didn't feel it was hard at all, partially because we didn't play very well the week before on offense. And defense is still a work in progress," said Meyer when asked how hard it was for his team to focus on the Illini. "Offensively a week ago, we had hard practices. We expect much more out of our offensive line than we got in State College. So I didn't feel it one bit. But now I'll focus obviously on this week."
Ohio State scored on nine of its 14 drives and had this one put away by late in the first quarter when it had a 17-0 lead. By halftime it was 31-0.
After struggling against Penn State, J.T. Barrett was better, completing 15 of 24 for 167 yards and two touchdowns. However, there were three passes that the redshirt freshman overthrew when he had a wide-open receiver.
Barrett completed only two of his first six but then had a run where he completed six straight, including a 32-yard touchdown to Devin Smith where Barrett hit him in stride.
In eight first-half drives, Barrett directed the Buckeyes to five scores (three touchdowns, two field goals). Barrett though was quick to mention the second-quarter drive where the Buckeyes turned it over on downs on the Illini 2 after Ezekiel Elliott suffered a 1-yard loss on a screen pass.
Barrett summed up his performance as "pretty poor".
"I was just missing open guys. I knew where to go with the football but not completing it. That's on myself and I can correct that," he said. "It wasn't my (sprained left) knee (which was injured last week at Penn State). I was confident in it. It was me not getting the throws to receivers, plain and simple."
With the game in hand and Meyer wanting to give Cardale Jones some reps, Barrett was out at halftime. Meyer though did note that the knee did enter a little bit into the decision. While Meyer wasn't pleased with the early struggles, he was happy to see Barrett direct a crisp two-play, 25-yard drive late in the first half that was completed with a 8-yard touchdown to Devin Smith.
"Maybe it was nerves, maybe it was pressing. We'll get to the bottom of it," offensive coordinator Tom Herman said. "I don't have any hesitation there he is one of the most accurate throwers that I've ever coached.
"The way that the Penn State game unfolded had you asked me to sign up for that before I wouldn't have. I would have signed up for a different way for us to get a win but the fact it happened the way it did can only add some confidence and toughness as he heads into this week."
Meyer started talking about Michigan State to his players immediately after Saturday's game. The loss in the Big Ten Championship Game served as motivation during preseason workouts but after the injury to Braxton Miller and a loss to Virginia Tech, there have been more immediate needs to focus on.
"The dream was ripped away from us, ripped away by a very good team, and we're going to face a very good team that we have a lot of respect for. So it's all about the most prepared team. That's what's going to win this game," Meyer said. "And I don't think there will be a whole lot of necessary we'll do our part about motivation, but this is a motivated team. And I think the most prepared team will win it."