Illinois is 2-3 after Saturday’s win at Nebraska. It was the first time the Illini have won in Lincoln since 1924. Now, they will come back to Champaign to host one of the best teams in the conference and in the nation - Ohio State.
Here’s what Lovie had to say:
On last week’s win
- The team did a lot right and made improvements over the last week.
- A good week of practice carried over to the game against Nebraska.
On facing Ohio State this week
- The Buckeyes have been one of the best teams in the Big Ten Conference (and college football) for a long time.
- Playing an opponent like this brings exposure to the program.
- The Illini have to continue to work hard since there is still so much they can improve upon. They left a lot on the field in Lincoln.
On being underdogs
- It is something they have been used to and they have been underdogs for most of the year.
- Also something that the team is familiar with after last year.
- Being underdogs is an opinion before the game on how the teams stack up, so they are excited for the challenge and to play.
On slowing down the Ohio State offense
- It starts with quarterback Justin Fields.
- Fields is a great player and one of the best athletes in college football. With someone like him leading the offense, it is going to be a challenge.
- Ohio State also has strong receivers, running backs and their tight ends are some of the best the Illini will see this year. They have lots of production coming back as well.
On the difference from Week 1
- The best football normally is not played in Week 1.
- While the majority of the team played against Wisconsin, a lot of key players were out the following two weeks. It was good to have everyone back and he likes to see the team getting better each week.
- Last week was the closest they have been to having the entire team together. It was more along the line of what they thought it would look like going into the season.
- Comments on injured players will come later this week. The team did not practice today and Lovie wants to talk to them first.
- Those players include Alex Palczewski and Tarique Barnes.
On the quarterback position
- Brandon Peters is the starting quarterback.
- The starting quarterback is the key to success. Over the past few weeks, they have learned that position is deeper than they initially thought.
On rushing against Ohio State
- While the Illini have a good run game, the Ohio State rush defense is strong as well.
- It is challenging for teams to run the ball against the Buckeyes, so they want to establish the run.
- The Illini are not going to come out on Saturday and throw the ball 70 times. They are going to stick to what they do best and run, which will not change this week.
On home field advantage
- There is not really a home field advantage this season.
- Without the big crowd, the games are like a neutral site.
- In past seasons, there was a distinct advantage, but now there is no significant difference in the game day experience. Home and away games are essentially the same, besides travel.
- The players can have some of their families in the stands.