Illinois (3-6, 0-5) vs. Ohio State (9-0, 5-0)
Time: 11am Central
Line: Ohio State -33.5
Forecast: 54 degrees, cloudy, 21mph winds
Enemy Territory: Land-Grant Holy Land
THESE FOUR THINGS
1. Play With No Fear. Listen, we all know that the odds are good that the Illini are going to lose this game. That makes it very hard to come up with four things the Illini have to do to make sure they win. The fact is, Ohio State is such a good team that the Illini could do all four of the things I tell them they have to do and still lose by multiple touchdowns.
But that could work to their advantage. Their in one of those situations where nobody expects them to win. For the love of god they are nearly a five touchdown underdog at home. So, I know it's a cliche, but the Illini have nothing to lose. They should play like it.
We know Bill Cubit likes to get creative, maybe even a bit too creative at times. Let it all hang out on Saturday.
Let Aaron Bailey throw a pass.
Just let loose. The worst thing that can happen is they get blown out like everybody expects them to.
2. Limit Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde. This is a lot easier said than done. Coming in to the game Ohio State is averaging 301.11 rushing yards per game and 6.45 yards per rush on the season. Now, those numbers drop a bit in Big Ten play, but not by much. They're still very impressive.
And when you see those numbers and think about the Illini run defense you break into convulsions thinking about what's likely going to happen.
Illinois isn't going to stop Braxton Miller. It's not going to stop Carlos Hyde. Nobody has, and unless the Illini defense got a lot better over the last six days, it won't be the first. The key will be to at least try to slow them down. At some point they're going to break free for a big play, but if you limit those big plays you can keep yourself in the game.
If not, you're toast.
3. Throw The Ball. Listen, it's hard to find a weakness on Ohio State, but if there is one it just might be the pass defense. Ohio State's defensive pass efficiency of 123.16 ranks seventh in the conference and 55th nationally. So, you know, "weakness" is relative.
Now, the weather is working against the Illini here as the forecast calls for winds over 20mph on Saturday in Champaign, but odds are if the Illini are going to move the ball on this defense, they'll have to do it through the air. Not surprisingly, in the two conference games the Illini had a legitimate shot of winning, Nate Scheelhaase played well.
In the other three losses, not so much (Nate's numbers against Wisconsin weren't bad, but it's important to remember that game was over early, and it was Reilly O'Toole and, yes, Aaron Bailey who threw our two touchdown passes that night).
4. Turnovers. Don't Have Them. Listen, beating Ohio State is hard enough. If you turn the ball over you're pretty much screwed. So it's very simple. The Illini will need to protect the football and force some Ohio State turnovers to have any chance in hell of winning this game.
Considering Ohio State has the best turnover margin in the conference, that won't be easy.
Fornelli: Could you tell during this preview that I'm not optimistic about tomorrow? Yeah, that's because I'm not. I know we've really only seen the Illini get blown out once this season, and even that was only for a half. Well, on Saturday we're going to see it for the full 60 minutes. Ohio State has people to impress. Ohio State 56-17 (7-2 on the season).
Primiano: Someday the Illibuck will get to leave the depressing urban hellhole that is Columbus, Ohio. Unfortunately, this 2013 Illini squad is in no way strong enough nor talented enough to hang with these Buckeyes and Braxton Miller should tear them apart with ease. Ohio State 45-24 (6-3 on the season).
Birkhead: We are going to get demolished. Anyone who thinks otherwise is crazy. Ohio State is a national championship contending team, with one of the best coaches in the entire country. They are better than the Illini at every single position. Hopefully, there will be at least a few positives for the Illini, but Illibuck will not be freed this year. But next year, he is ours. Ohio State 50-12 (7-2 on the season).
Cassidy: Oh, my. Well...well this one's going to be over quick, hopefully painless, too. On one hand, it'll embarrass a helpless program that's trying desperately to maintain some sense of pride. On the other hand, however, perhaps our young players can pick up a few pointers from this Ohio State clinic. Ohio State 45-7 (5-4 on the season).