Big Ten conference play begins this week as the No. 2 Buckeyes travel to Champaign to take on the Illinois Fighting Illini.
The Illini are 2-1 (2-0 at home) so far this season—their only loss to unbeaten, 4-0 Missouri—but their two wins have been against in-state directional schools, Northern and Southern Illinois.
Ron Zook's sitting on a white-hot hot seat and with four of Illinois' next six games against top 25 teams, the Zooker might find himself unemployed come early November.
Ohio State (4-0) is coming off a 73-20 domination of Eastern Michigan and are 19-point favorites this weekend.
Ohio State has proven they are loaded with talent on both sides of the football.
Illinois is not on the same level as the Buckeyes on paper, but they too have some talented key players to watch.
Illinois—By the Numbers
Quarterback Nathan Sheelhaase has passed for 380 yards with three touchdowns, three interceptions, and his current QB rating is 117.2. He has also rushed for 204 yards and a score.
Mikel Leshoure has rushed for 100-plus yards in his last four games. He is the leading rusher for the Illini with 398 yards on 58 carries for an average of 6.9 yards per carry and three rushing touchdowns. Stopping Leshoure and forcing Sheelhaase to throw should be the primary focus for the Buckeye defense.
Statistically, A.J. Jenkins is the only wide receiver worth mentioning. He has 12 receptions for 190 yards and two touchdowns. Every other Illini wideout has less than 50 yards receiving.
Overall, Illinois ranks 112th in passing yards per game (130.0), 18th in rushing yards per game (229.00), 70th in points scored per game (25.3), and 27th in points allowed per game (16.0).
Ohio State—By the Numbers
QB Terrelle Pryor has positioned himself at the top of most everyone's Heisman favorites list. Pryor has 939 passing yards, 10 touchdown passes to just two interceptions, 269 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns. He also has a 20-yard touchdown reception. His QB rating is 167.2.
Pryor's current projected stats for the entire season are 2,817 passing yards, 807 rushing yards, 42 total touchdowns versus only six interceptions.
Although Pryor is the leading rusher for the Bucks, Dan Herron, Jaamal Berry, and Brandon Saine aren't too far behind.
Herron has gained 192 yards rushing with four touchdowns. He is averaging 4.6 yards per carry. He also has seven receptions for 109 yards.
Jaamal Berry has made the most of his limited opportunities. In addition to his kick return duties, he has carried the ball 15 times for 177 yards and has one touchdown. His impressive average of 11.8 yards per carry is definitely the main reason Buckeye fans are at a loss as to why he is not getting more touches out of the backfield.
Saine has 169 yards and two touchdowns. He is averaging 4.7 yards per carry and he also has eight catches for 67 yards with two touchdown receptions.
After his career day last week against the EMU Eagles, Dane Sanzenbacher is now the Buckeyes leading receiver with 20 catches for 316 yards and five touchdowns.
Devier Posey has 15 catches for 242 yards and two touchdowns.
Tight end Jake Stoneburner, who missed last weeks game with an ankle injury, has nine catches for 110 yards and a touchdown. Word is he may not play this week either.
As a team, Ohio State is 29th in passing yards per game (266.5), 14th in rushing yards per game (240.3), 3rd in points per game (49.3), and 19th in points allowed per game (14.5).
Ohio State—Illinois: History Lesson and Other Tidbits
• Ohio State leads the all-time head-to-head series 61-30-4.
• Ohio State has won the last seven meetings in Champaign, dating back to 1993.
• Ohio State is 22-2 against unranked conference opponents dating back to 2005.
• Ohio State is 28-8 since 2001 in conference road games under Jim Tressel.
• Ohio State is 5-2 overall and 3-0 on the road vs. Illinois under Jim Tressel.
• Ohio State coach Jim Tressel (98-21) is just two wins shy of his 100th at Ohio State.
• Ohio State's defense has not allowed a 100-yard rusher in their last 27 games.
• Ohio State boasts an all-time record of 151-22-5 in September games.
• Terrelle Pryor is now 23-3 as Ohio State's starting quarterback.
• The home team is just 2-8 in the last 10 meetings of the series.
• Illinois has scored 10 or less points in seven of the last 13 meetings.
• Illinois' last win over Ohio State was in 2007, a 28-21 win over the then-No. 1 ranked Buckeyes.
• Illinois coach and Ohio native Ron Zook is 23-40 overall at Illinois (2005-2010) and just 1-4 against Ohio State over that span.
• Zook has a 5-4 record vs. top 5 teams, however, he is only 9-28 overall against ranked opponents in his career.
Summary and Prediction
Ohio State should have little or no trouble in this game. Last year, the Buckeyes shutout Illinois 30-0. Ohio State is even better than they were last year.
Illinois, not so much.
Running back Mikel Leshoure is the best player the Illini have.
Contrarily, their passing game poses very little threat, although QB Sheelhasse has had some success running the ball, but, he hasn't faced a defense like OSU's either.
All that being said, let's keep this short and get to the key points.
Stop the run—force Illinois to pass—create turnovers—win the game.
(Modest) Final Score Prediction
Ohio State 45