For the 10th week of the season, the Buckeyes aren't really in bad shape health-wise, but defensive tackle Quinn Pitcock and wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez are recovering from concussions, and left tackle Alex Boone has some type of knee injury.
Gonzalez will probably play against Illinois, but Boone and Pitcock are questionable.
"Quinn worked today (Thursday) and I think how he feels after today's work will determine that," OSU head coach Jim Tressel said. "Really, Jim Heacock's feeling is we're either going to go, or we're not going to go. It's not going to be one of those where we'll see how we're doing on Saturday and how we feel on Saturday. So, I'm guessing (Friday) they'll make that decision as to let's go for it, or let's not. But either way he's going to be with us."
Tressel mentioned that redshirt freshman Doug Worthington could see more action this week at defensive tackle if Pitcock is unable to go.
The coach was asked to specify Boone's injury and the severity of it.
"He had to have a procedure Sunday," Tressel said. "I wouldn't say it's extremely serious, but he didn't work at all this week, whereas Quinn did this week."
If Boone is unable to go, the Buckeyes might turn to senior Tim Schafer.
"Oh yeah," Tressel said. "You know, Schafe has played left guard, left tackle, right tackle and thank goodness for Schafe. Schafe will play there. Jimmy Cordle who has played both center and tackle can play there. Instead of playing nine or 10 guys, we'll probably play eight or nine guys. And Doug Datish can even go out there."
The top-ranked Buckeyes (9-0, 5-0 Big Ten) will be facing an Illinois (2-7, 1-4) team that has steadily improved as the season has progressed. Ohio State has not played at Illinois since 2002 when the Buckeyes won the first overtime game in school history en route to the national championship. That means none of the current players have played at Memorial Stadium.
"Well, the use of film is all you do," Tressel said of getting his team ready to play in an unfamiliar environment. "In this day and age with video, you can get so much film and they've seen game footage of them playing both there and away. We're going to get over there Friday and we're leaving a little earlier tomorrow (roughly 11 a.m.) which is only because that's the only time we could get the plane. It's no massive plan or anything. But we get a chance to get out to the stadium and get a feel for it.
"Where we're playing I don't think is a big issue. It's how we play is the key."
Tressel was asked if he will use the 2002 game as motivation so his players don't overlook the Fighting Illini.
"I think the fact that the last time we were there and we were undefeated and it was an overtime game is about enough said," Tressel said. "We didn't talk about where we were ranked and that type of thing. But the thing I remember going in was the year before (2001) they were the outright Big Ten champions. It wasn't like… and they lost a lot of guys in graduation and so forth. And this year it's kind of the opposite end of the pendulum where they are on their upswing. They did their losing of players and did their young year a year ago and the beginning of this year. And now, to me, they look like an upper-division Big Ten football team. To me as I watch film, it's no different than watching the top dogs."
Redshirt freshman kicker Aaron Pettrey is quietly enjoying a good year for the Buckeyes. He is 7-for-10 in field goals and consistently booms kickoffs deep into the end zone. Pettrey had to wait his chance to come to OSU. He sat out the entire 2004 season while he focused on academics at a community college. Pettrey said he wanted nothing more than to be a Buckeye and Tressel talked about the patience that Pettrey showed during the process.
"Well, we hung with him because he's a good kicker and he was in our youth camp and he was by far the best kicker we had at the camp," Tressel said. "It became a winding road because Josh Huston's road became winding and he got to stay longer. We just couldn't fit at that time.
"We were fortunate that Aaron was patient with us based upon our circumstances and it's worked."
Tressel also reacted to the firing of Michigan State head coach John L. Smith, a move that was announced on Wednesday. Smith will finish out the season with the Spartans.
"Well, you never like to see friends go through something like that and especially staffs," Tressel said. "I always get a little concerned when it happens in the midst of a season. I don't know who that helps, but obviously people have their reasons for it and maybe if I was on the other end I would understand that. You just feel bad. John L has been a good coach and he's won 130-some games and at the end of the day he'll be remembered as a good coach."