- Austin Ward, ESPN Staff Writer
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A closer look at the standouts in No. 3 Ohio State's 60-35 victory on the road against Illinois on Saturday to stay unbeaten and move one game closer to clinching a division championship.
RB Carlos Hyde: The wind was whipping and clearly impacting the Ohio State passing attack, and the Buckeyes might have been better off duplicating the game plan from two years ago and keeping the ball on the ground from start to finish. If anything, Carlos Hyde didn't get the football enough, yet he still racked up 246 rushing yards and punched in five total touchdowns in the finest game of his career. Perhaps most important for the Buckeyes, Hyde showed off a higher gear on a pair of touchdown runs of more than 50 yards late in the fourth quarter, giving them more evidence of his development as an explosive threat and invaluable style points in a game that was tighter than expected.
DE Joey Bosa: The freshman's impact was difficult to ignore when he was on the field, but it was even more clear after Bosa left with an apparent neck injury and the pressure in the pocket started to slip. Bosa has rarely looked like a first-year player since taking over as a starter, and he was offering the production of a seasoned veteran while blowing up the Illinois offensive line on the way to 2.5 sacks before a collision with teammate Bradley Roby and quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase forced him to the sideline. The Buckeyes finished with six sacks collectively, but they need a healthy Bosa down the stretch, given the disruption he's been causing to opposing offenses lately.
LB Ryan Shazier: The most productive player on the Ohio State defense had even more responsibility thrust onto his plate as the only healthy starter left at linebacker, and Shazier did everything he could to make up for the absence of Joshua Perry and Curtis Grant. The junior added to his reputation as a blitzer with 3.5 tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks, he chased down plays across the field on the way to 16 tackles and provided a crucial momentum-swinging play as the game got tight as he forced a fumble on a sack that led to a safety that seemed to help the Buckeyes settle down in the second half. There might not be a player more valuable to any defense in the country than Shazier is to Ohio State.
22hMitch Sherman and Josh Moyer
5dDan Murphy and Mitch Sherman
5dSharon Katz, ESPN Stats & Information
6dMitch Sherman and Dan Murphy