Ohio State (3-3, 0-2) looks to pick up its first Big Ten win of the season against 16th-ranked Illinois (6-0, 2-0). The Buckeyes kept it close with No. 14 Nebraska last week before falling by seven while the Fighting Illini continued their hot play with a win over Indiana.
Where: Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Ill.
When: Saturday, Oct. 15 at 3:30 p.m. EDT
Listen: WHBC 1480 AM (Ohio State) or WDWS 1400 AM (Illinois)
Betting Line: Ohio State +4
Who Might Not Play For Ohio State: QB Braxton Miller
Miller has outplayed Joe Bauserman this season, but neither quarterback has played well enough to secure the job for themselves. Miller's knee is a little banged up, so he'll have to test it out before Saturday's game. He should play, though.
Who Might Not Play for Illinois: WR Darius Millines
Millines missed last week's game against Indiana due to an injured foot and is listed as day-to-day. He's second on the team in receiving yards at 174 and has one touchdown. While A.J. Jenkins is the main target in the passing game, having Millines on the field gives Illinois more options.
Key Storyline: Is Illinois for real?
Only the Illini's most diehard fans expected them to be undefeated through six weeks. They won't sneak up on teams anymore, so we'll get to see what they're really made of in the coming weeks. Ohio State is no pushover, so Illinois better come ready for a hard-fought battle.
The last six games on Illinois' schedule are much tougher than the first five, so don't start planning the BCS National Championship part in Champaign just yet. That said, if the offense continues to click on all cylinders, anything is possible.
The Fighting Illini will be in the BCS discussion for as long as they remain undefeated. After that, they'll have to rely on the Big Ten's automatic bid. The good news is they'll have several chances to prove themselves to the voters, most notably vs. Wisconsin on Nov. 19.
With so many undefeated teams left, the BCS is going to be a mess until things sort themselves out, so all Illinois can do is keep winning and hope for some help.
What They're Saying
Jeremy Werner of Orange and Blue News answered some questions about the Fighting Illini's season so far and had some interesting things to say about who he thinks will break out moving forward.
Expect to see more and more Donovonn Young in the second half. Petrino told me last week that he's waiting for a breakout game for the freshman tailback. The coaching staff is giving Young his opportunities as senior Jason Ford struggles.
Yahoo! Sports passes along a report from the Associated Press about Buckeyes defensive end Nathan Williams and the news isn't good.
Ohio State defensive end Nathan Williams, who injured his left knee in the first game of the season, likely will not play again this year.
Interim coach Luke Fickell said Tuesday that Williams is “likely done for the season” and probably needs a microfracture surgery to treat the injury.
Ohio State Player to Watch: RB Carlos Hyde
Hyde has scored five touchdowns in six games and has assumed lead back duties for the Buckeyes. The sophomore is averaging more than five yards per carry and is also tied for second on the team in receptions.
If Ohio State is going to pull off the upset, it'll need to play a ball-control style offense and keep the pigskin away from Illinois' playmakers. Hyde will be the main man attempting to do just that.
Illinois Player to Watch: QB Nathan Scheelhaase
Scheelhaase has been one of the nation's biggest surprises and his play is probably the main reason Illinois has been able to keep winning. The second-year quarterback has thrown 10 touchdowns and run in four more.
He's supported by a strong running game, with three backs gaining more than 40 yards per week. But it's Scheelhaase who will need to make the big plays on Saturday to keep the dream alive in Champaign.
Key Matchup: A.J. Jenkins vs. Ohio State secondary
Jenkins is second in the country with 815 receiving yards in just six games. The only way to truly slow down Illinois' offense is to keep Jenkins from making so many key catches, especially those which move the chains. It's easier said than done, of course, but that's priority No. 1 for Ohio State.
This should be a terrific game that goes down to the final minutes. It means more for the Fighting Illini, so look for them to find a way to win and hand the Buckeyes a second straight tough loss.
Prediction: Illinois 24, Ohio State 21
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