|Matchup Preview | November 1, 2014|
|Illinois Fighting Illini|
|#20 No. 16 Ohio State Buckeyes|
Five Fast Facts About The Illini
1. Illinois’ win vs. No. 24 Minnesota last week was its first against a ranked team since Sept. 17, 2011.
2. Junior cornerback V’Angelo Bentley returned a fumble for the game-winning touchdown last week, becoming the first Illinois player ever to have a punt return, kick return, interception return and fumble return for a score.
3. Bentley (Cleveland Glenville) is one of 17 Illini from Ohio including fellow starters left tackle Simon Cvijanovic (Cleveland Benedictine), center Joe Spencer (Mason), right tackle Christian DiLauro (Uniontown Green), defensive tackle Jarrod Clements (Trotwood-Madison) and linebacker Mason Monheim (Orrville).
5. Illinois has won four games when trailing in the fourth quarter this season.
OHIO STATE RUSH OFFENSE vs. ILLINOIS RUSH DEFENSE
The numbers here don’t seem to portend well for the Illini. Teams have averaged healthy numbers of 258.6 yards per game and 5.1 yards per carry, with squads choosing mostly to move it on the ground and finding little resistance. Wisconsin and Nebraska each topped 400 net yards on the ground and totaled five touchdowns, while even Purdue had 349 rushes and four TDs. There are some solid players on the Illinois defense but in the end the team doesn’t have the athletes to go toe-to-toe with elite rushing units. Ohio State, meanwhile, is rushing at times like it did a year ago and had success vs. the nation’s No. 1 rush defense at times vs. Penn State. It will be interesting to see how OSU deals with the injury to J.T. Barrett and how the carries get broken up. EDGE: OHIO STATE
ILLINOIS RUSH OFFENSE vs. OHIO STATE RUSH DEFENSE
Take out a 219-yard performance vs. Texas State this year – which is not exactly Texas, Baylor or TCU – and the Illini rushing offense hasn’t done much. The only other games in which Illinois topped 100 yards were the last two against Wisconsin and Minnesota, and the Illini didn’t average 4 yards per carry in either contest. It’s been the same story the past few years, as the Illini have some nice pieces at running back in Josh Ferguson and Donovonn Young but neither back is elite, and the offensive line isn’t at a level to give the two a whole lot of room to roam. The secret is out as well over the past few weeks that the Illini likes to run the read option with Reilly O’Toole. EDGE: OHIO STATE
OHIO STATE PASS OFFENSE vs. ILLINOIS PASS DEFENSE
Teams haven’t had much reason to pass against Illinois this year, and when they’ve done so, they’ve had modest success. The Illini are 82nd in the nation in passing efficiency defense and have made only four interceptions, so it seems likely the Buckeyes will be able to make some things happen in the passing game more than they did vs. Penn State. Whenever Ohio State has had a solid run game, Barrett has been good at protecting the ball through the air, and that might be the story again vs. the Illini. EDGE: OHIO STATE
ILLINOIS PASS OFFENSE vs. OHIO STATE PASS DEFENSE
It’s rather unfortunate for Illinois that the strength of the Illini team, its pass offense, has been short-circuited by a broken leg to quarterback Wes Lunt, a transfer into the program from Oklahoma State who had made the team dangerous through the air. Without Lunt, the team has had to turn to O’Toole, a career backup whose stats pale in comparison’s to Lunt, who had 13 touchdowns and was throwing for more than 300 yards per game in five games. The big play has been a large part of the Illinois arsenal so that will be a continued test for Ohio State, and protecting the QB has been an issue at times as well for the Illini. EDGE: OHIO STATE
Ohio State continues to be pretty strong here, but Illinois is, too, aside from place-kicking. The combination of Taylor Zalewski and David Reisner have made just 2 of 5 field goals, but veteran punter Justin DuVernois has been the key to one of the best net punt units in the nation and V’Angelo Bentley is an elite return man. The Cleveland Glenville product showed that a year ago with a return TD vs. Ohio State, and the Buckeyes will have to be on guard to prevent a special-teams score, something that can serve as an equalizer in a game that looks uneven on paper. EDGE: EVEN
This could be viewed as a bit of a trap game for the Buckeyes, as it is sandwiched between two road night tests at Penn State and Michigan State. That might be one of the few things Illinois can hold on to, as perhaps the Buckeyes will sleepwalk through the opening quarter or so to keep this one close. That seems unlikely, though, with the Buckeyes likely boasting an excellent home atmosphere under the lights and wanting to atone for the struggles in State College. Illinois does have some confidence, though, after its upset win against Minnesota. EDGE: EVEN
Illinois is a feistier team than it has been in past years, but the Buckeyes should have enough talent to win this game convincingly at home. Illinois isn’t very good on defense and is down to its second-string quarterback, and the Buckeyes will have a night-game home atmosphere behind it. This looks like the kind of game where as long as OSU takes it seriously, the starters can give the Buckeyes a nice shift of work before calling it a day in order to prepare for the next showdown with the Spartans. OHIO STATE 50-14
The staff pick is an average of predictions by staffers Kane Anderson, Ryan Ginn, Matthew Hager, Mark Rea, Jeff Svoboda and Blake Williams