After last night's unexpected loss to the Illinois, I (like everyone else in Buckeye nation) have been asking myself what happened. The answer I keep coming back to is that we simply couldn't stop the spread. It's that simple, folks.
I thought that after last year's national championship game debacle against U of F, we had learned a few things about the quickly proliferating spread option attack. Apparently we needed another lesson, as was made abundantly clear last night. A fair amount of blame should be placed Todd Boeckman's three interceptions as well as the officiating crew's terrible job (and it was terrible), but the fact remains that play after play, they ran right over us. 3, 5, 7 yards or more at a time, they ran right over us. It was January 8th all over again and we let it happen. We have seen all season what Illinois was capable of, and we failed to stop it.
That being said, if there is one Big Ten team that I would want to lose to this season it would be Illinois. They are no pushovers-- this was not as huge of an upset as some might think-- as they have proven against Wisconsin, Penn State, and Michigan what they could do. The narrow loss to Michigan was the result of Illinois' own mistakes: penalties and turnovers. Had the Illini played a cleaner game, they would have easily bested the Wolverines as well. They are a quality team and they came to Columbus to play.
I am, of course, disappointed to see our national championship hopes dashed but we were arguably not ready to face a team like LSU. With all the criticism the Big Ten has been receiving for its lack of quality teams, I am in fact glad to see a new contender in the conference. We need more strong teams like this upstart Illinois squad if we want to get respect nationally. Not to mention the fact that playing crappy teams like this year's MSU and Northwestern teams is just plain boring to watch.
I say congratulations to Ron Zook and his team. You played a tough game and you beat the #1 ranked team in the land.
Of course next year, the gloves are coming off. 11/15/08 the Buckeyes are coming to Champaign, and we'll be out for blood. You can bet on it.