Ohio State vs. Illinois: Are Fighting Illini Most Underrated Team This Season?

Randy ChambersAnalyst IOctober 15, 2011

CHAMPAIGN, IL - OCTOBER 02: Head coach Ron Zook of the Illinois Fighting Illini watches as his team takes on the Ohio State Buckeyes at Memorial Stadium on October 2, 2010 in Champaign, Illinois. Ohio State defeated Illinois 24-13. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Throughout his career, Illinois head coach Ron Zook has always seemed to mess things up at some point during the season. This year with the Fighting Illini may actually be the year he gets the job done. 

Illinois is currently 6-0 heading into the weekend matchup against the Ohio State Buckeyes. It should be a winnable game since Ohio State has struggled on both sides of the ball and is dealing with more distractions.

Although Illinois has gone from unranked to No.16 in the AP Poll, they do not seem to be getting much love. All they do is keep winning games, and they could give Wisconsin a run for their money in the Leaders division in the Big Ten.

Sophomore quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase has been a very underrated player and has completed 66 percent of his passes for 1,283 yards and 10 touchdowns. 

The running game is one of the best in the country, averaging 226 yards per game. Four players have over 200 rushing yards on the season.

What may be so surprising about this team is their defense, which gives up only 17 points per game. The secondary has seven interceptions and has forced nine turnovers total.

The defensive line, led by Whitney Mercilus, is spectacular, and the team has a total of 22 sacks on the season. They also have 49 tackles for a loss, and Mercilus has 10.5 of those.

An underrated statistic is always penalty yardage per game, and this team is very disciplined, averaging fewer than five penalties a game.

The only problem with this team is they really haven't played anybody yet. Sure, they've beaten a solid Arizona State team, but their schedule is nowhere near teams in the Big 12 or SEC.

Illinois is underrated, yes, but a more proven team like Clemson should get the title of most underrated team of the season.

The Tigers have gone from unranked to a top-10 team in the country by beating three ranked teams in a row. They have speed on both sides of the ball and as explosive of an offense as you'll see all year. They had nobody talking about them in the beginning of the season, and now they are a favorite to win the ACC.

Illinois can become the most underrated team in the country if they end up beating Wisconsin later in the year.

Until then, they are underrated, but not as much as other teams.

Let's just hope Ron Zook doesn't mess it up.