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READ WITH CAUTION: TCR Staff previews Illinois at Ohio State

Spoiler: OSU might win.

Ohio State v Illinois Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Austin Jabs: Ohio State 62, Illinois 0

I try my best to be an optimist when it comes to Illinois football. I still believe in the rebuild, I still believe in the process. I also believe that Ohio State is one of the best college football programs in the nation, and the Illini will be overmatched in every respect in this matchup. Barrett is too good, the defense is too good, and despite some bright spots for Illinois (defense, special teams) they will not be able to put any points on the board in Columbus this weekend. If nothing else, we may set the school record for most punts and most punt yards in a game, so the chance to make history is definitely there.

Michael Berns: Ohio State 49, Illinois 10

Illinois’ cross-division games this season were home losses to Rutgers 35-24 and Indiana last week 24-14. The final cross-division takes place against an Ohio State team that A. Was up 35-3 last week at halftime against ranked Michigan State, and B. Has everything left to play for by still having a legitimate shot to make it to the College Football Playoff as a 2-loss team. Illinois, Michigan and a Big Ten Championship Game (against Wisconsin) are what stands in the Buckeyes’ way. Illinois isn’t so much a hurdle or a speed bump as it is a loose piece of gravel Ohio State must get by before turning its attention to the big boys of the Big Ten.

Ian Gold: Ohio State 54, Illinois 9

If you’ve got better things to do Saturday afternoon, go do them. If you don’t, find new hobbies. Even though Illinois has played Ohio State tough over the past 15 years, this one is going to be an evisceration. Illinois isn’t going to be able to move the ball on offense, and Ohio State has hit its stride completely blowing out teams that are better than Illinois. Not to mention the college football playoff rankings put Ohio State on the bubble of “make every other team look like a middle school JV and maybe you’ll work your way in” category.

Thumpasaurus: Ohio State 59, Illinois 0

I watched the first quarter of the MSU-OSU game last week, and I’ve watched an awful lot of Illinois football. The Buckeye defensive line cut through a relatively young Spartan offensive line like a hot knife through butter, taking away basically everything that wasn’t a quick hitter or rollout. When I say “relatively young” I still mean “way more experienced than our guys.” Basically, this is going to be one of the worst Illinois game you’ll ever see, and the reason for that is that even if you ignore the fact that Ohio State is more talented than us at every position, their strengths would still be a nightmare matchup for our weaknesses. What are their strengths? A great defensive line that can apply massive pressure without any help from a blitz, and an offense built around a great option quarterback who can pitch to very quick skill players to punish us on the edge. With the youngest offensive line in the country and a young defense that has proven highly vulnerable to misdirection, Illinois could probably have just as much talent as the Buckeyes and still lose this game from a matchup perspective.

With the talent gap as it is and Ohio State very much playing for something, there’s really no point in trying to euphemize this one: we’re going to get slaughtered at the altar of the College Football Playoff committee. We give up a lot of sacks and commit a lot of turnovers against middling teams like Indiana; Ohio State will do horrific things in those categories. Honestly, we should all pitch in and do something really nice for Jeff George, Jr. after this game. He deserves your lifelong respect and admiration if he takes every snap of this one. Just as Anthony Santella did in 2009 and Justin Duvernois did in 2011/2012, Blake Hayes is getting a tremendous amount of game reps in preparation to be a huge weapon for Illinois when the offense develops into a threat.

Matt O’Neall: Ohio State 56, Illinois 3

These last two weeks can provide some great lessons for the young Illini. This week they will see what an elite program, and an elite atmosphere looks like up close and personal. They will have to take their lumps on Saturday. The hope is, by the time this roster is ready to compete, they will have some anger about what’s about to happen to them on Saturday. And hopefully they will not be as intimidated when they face an elite challenge in 2019. We’re only 2 weeks away from talking about 2018 depth charts and how the staff will round out this year’s recruiting class.

Mark Schaer: Ohio State 45, Illinois 6

I don't think Cam Thomas is going to play, so I don't see Illinois getting a touchdown drive in against the Buckeyes. Also, there's just a lot going against Illinois. Injuries have been horrible down the stretch (B1G Network even had a graphic for it on TV last weekend), Ohio State has lost more than one game this year (so you know they're ready to kick the crap out of everyone) and Illinois is playing in the ‘Shoe. Nothing will go right for the Illini - you can bet on George throwing 3 INTs and Illinois being held to under 200 yards of offense. The silver lining: the defense has actually improved pretty well as a unit this year, so I think there's a legitimate chance they hold JT Barrett and the Buckeyes to under 21 points in the first half. It'll all come crashing down in the third quarter because the offense won't be able to stay on the field to give the defense a breather, but it will be mildly impressive. And Chase McLaughlin will be the reason we beat the spread. Start calling your bookies, Illini fans.

Brandon Birkhead: Ohio State 54, Illinois 3.

In one of the most famous military battles in history — the Battle of Thermopylae, which the legend of the 300 Spartan warriors was based — 7,000 Greek warriors from various city states fought a hopeless battle against 100,000-150,00 Persian soldiers. There was no chance for the Greeks to win, but they managed to hold off the Persians for 3 days by defending at a strategic narrow coastal pass called the hot gates. The Greeks only lost after they were betrayed by one of their own men, telling the Persians of a pass that allowed them to outflank the Greeks. The Greeks then fought to their deaths.

In this week’s game against Ohio State, Illinois plays the role of the Greeks at Thermopylae as a side that is participating in a hopeless battle. But unlike those Greeks, Illinois doesn’t have better talent than their opponents. They do not have a strategic advantage like King Leonidas did with the hot gates. They are simply an overmatched and undermanned side ask to do an impossible task. Illinois is an army of 7,000 facing an army of 150,000 men in an open field of battle. Illinois does not have a chance in this game.

Ohio State, in my opinion, is one of the most talented teams in the country, right up next to Alabama. This is a team that should have never lost the two games they have. This is a team that is much better than the Ohio State side that won the National Championship in 2015. Their defensive line is unreal. The offense is sensational. They have everything you would ever want and more in a college football team.

They are playing an Illinois team that is starting the most freshman in the entire nation, and the most true freshman in program history.

The worst defeat in Illinois Football history is 63-0 against the University of Chicago in 1906, while the biggest loss to a fellow Big Ten opponent came in 1890 -- Illinois’ first year of football -- against Purdue, a 62-0 loss. The biggest loss in the Big Ten era was 59-0 to Iowa in 1985. All these records are all in play this week.

Here’s hoping that this is just another blowout loss on Saturday, and not a historic one.

Brad Repplinger: Ohio State 49, Illinois 9


Stephen Cohn: Ohio State 27, Illinois 24

I’ll ruin the surprise right here. I’m the Site Manager at The Champaign Room, and I let my writers make their predictions first in a Google Doc, and then I copy and paste them into here. After that process is finished, I finally put my prediction to writing.

At the start of the season I was realistic, as was everyone else. I didn’t think Illinois would run away versus Ball State, but I was sure they’d win. As my staff has become more futile — and realistic — throughout the season, I’ve kind of flipped the switch and started to just hope for hell to break loose.

Hell breaking loose this week would be Illinois losing by less than 25 points. The apocalypse may strike if the Illini keep it within 12.

My prediction has no reasoning, mostly because there’s likely zero chance it happens.

But, if the Orange and Blue can only lose by three, mark the end of the world down.

If that’s so, let it burn.