Ohio State Football, Sports

Ohio State/Illinois Preview

11.07.07 | 9 Comments

IlliBuck Trophy
Illibuck Trophy

It’s Wednesday, so that must mean it’s time for the Ohio State/Illinois preview. This Saturday, at 12:30 PT, the Fighting Illini (aka Fighting Zookers) will travel to Ohio Stadium to battle the Buckeyes. Sitting at 7-3, Illinois has improved dramatically from prior seasons and has played well and played hard during the course of the season. The team is stock full of young talent and is definitely on the uptick. You might recall that a 2-7 Illinois team played Ohio State in a tough 17-10 victory in Champaign last year.

This year Illinois has dropped games to Missouri (8-1), Iowa (5-5), and Michigan (8-2). In essence, the only “bad” game they’ve had was against Iowa which in most eyes would be an expected win; though Iowa is steadily improving this season after a very rough start. On offense, Juice Williams is allegedly a dual threat, but in reality, he’s an erratic passing threat and a deadly running threat coupled with Rashard Mendenhall at tailback. The Illini homerun threat is Regis Benn, an electrifying talent in the mold of Ted Ginn. The offensive line is an experienced and efficient run blocking machine and as a result, Illinois leads the conference in rushing at 261 yards per game. The passing game is less prolific checking in at 153 yards per game, last in the conference. Overall, the Illini produce nearly 28 points per game.  

On defense, the superstars are Jeremy (J) Leman in the linebacking corp and Vontae Davis in the secondary. Overall, this defense yields 19 points, 113 yards rushing and 243 yards passing per game. The defensive line is young and fast which will test the Buckeye offensive line, the secondary has proven vulnerable to the passing game throughout the course of the season. The run defense is solid, if unspectacular. The challenge for the Illini is to make the Ohio State offense one-dimensional and they may be able to achieve that goal at points during the game on Saturday. But Ohio State’s offense, producing 35 points, 200 yards rushing, and 215 yards passing per game presents something of a Hobson’s choice for opposing defenses. Put 8 in the box, we’ll burn you over the top. Drop the safeties (as Wisconsin did at the end of the game last week) and we’ll run it down your throat. Which meal would you like?  

This has all the makings of a trap game. Vegas has installed the Buckeyes as favorites sporting a 14.5 point spread, Michigan is next week, the Illini are no pushovers. So what will happen? I think the Buckeyes win a tough game much like last week pulling away in the second half. The spread seems a bit rich to me relative to Illinois’ performance on the field this year – they will be full of confidence from last year’s experience and are a much better team overall than they get credit for. In the end, the balance of Ohio State’s offense, the one-dimensionality of Illinois’ offense, and the fact that this game is played in the cozy confines of Ohio Stadium equal a Buckeye victory. As always, turnovers, mental errors, and big plays in the return game could create a perfect storm leading to upset, but I judge that as unlikely. Equally, those same factors could lead to a blow out, I judge that as unlikely too.  

It’s November, and November is for contenders. We’ll see a very physical high effort game with the Buckeyes winning 31-20. As always, we’ll revisit this prediction after the game to see just how wrong it was…Go BUCKS!