#13 OHIO ST. (-14.0) 35 Illinois 18June 24, 2016
Illinois was without star WR Arrelious Benn for most of their opening day 9-37 loss to Missouri and Benn and quarterback Juice Williams missed last week's 45-17 win over Illinois State. Williams and Benn are scheduled to return this week for this big game and the Illini pass attack should improve from the modest early season results (6.0 yards per pass play).
However, Ohio State's defense held USC to 5.6 yppp and Toledo's good pass attack was shut down last week (3.8 yppp), so Illinois may put up mediocre numbers through the air even if they are as good throwing the ball as they were last season (1.8 yppp better than average).
The Buckeyes are also very good against the run, holding Navy's option attack to 4.6 yards per rushing play and USC's great backs to just 3.9 yprp and they rate at 1.0 yprp better than average in run defense after compensating for strength of opposing rushing attacks faced. Illinois is a very good offensive team, but Ohio State is just as good defensively as the Illini are on offense.
The difference in this game will be Ohio State's offense against the Illinois defense, which has trouble defending the pass. The Buckeyes have averaged 6.0 yards per play with their starting offense in the game (against teams that would combine to allow 5.2 yppl to an average attack) and Terrelle Pryor should put up big numbers against a sub-par Illini secondary that has gave up 309 pass yards at 8.4 yppp against Missouri and then let Illinois State rack up 337 yard at 6.2 yppp last week (Illinois State would average 4.1 yppp on the road against an average division 1A team).
My ratings favor Ohio State by 18 points and it would be more than that if I only used this year's games. I'll give some respect to Illinois coach Ron Zook, whose teams at Florida and Illinois are 15-2-1 ATS as conference underdogs if you exclude his first year at Illinois.
That won't keep me from leaning with Ohio State though.
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