Ohio State Looks To Bottle Up "Juice" Williams & Illinois

Chip MinnichCorrespondent ISeptember 24, 2009

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 01:  Quarterback Juice Williams #7 of the Illinois Fighting Illini looks for an open receiver in the first half against against the USC Trojans during the Rose Bowl presented by Citi at the Rose Bowl on January 1, 2008 in Pasadena, California. The Trojans defeated the Illini 49-17.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Game Four: Illinois Fighting Illini

Location: Ohio Stadium (Columbus, OH) 3:30PM EST, ABC

Head Coach: Ron Zook

Illinois Players Who Were Recruited By Ohio State: LB Martez Wilson, QB Juice Williams, WR Arrelious Benn, WR Cordale Scott, DL Josh Brent, and RB Justin Green. WR Jeff Cumberland was on Ohio State's radar but was not cleared academically by Ohio State. LB Martez Wilson is out for the season due to a herniated disk in his neck. WR Brian Gamble, LB Justin Staples, and DL Antonio James were all on Ohio State's recruiting radar for a time but were not offered scholarships.

Illinois Rushing Offense vs Ohio State Defense: Illinois currently ranks 2nd in The Big Ten in rushing offense, while Ohio State's rushing defense ranks 5th. Illinois' rushing attack is led by Jason Ford, Daniel Dufrene, Troy Pollard, and Justin Green. QBs Juice Williams and Eddie McGee are also threats out of Illinois' read-option offense.

Two years ago, Juice Williams was the key in Illinois' victory over Ohio State in Ohio Stadium. If Ohio State cannot limit Juice Williams' rushing, Ohio State could be in trouble.

Edge: Illinois

Illinois Passing Offense vs Ohio State Defense: Illinois' passing offense currently ranks 10th in The Big Ten, while Ohio State's pass defense ranks 5th. Illinois has been suffering due to the ankle injury sustained by WR Arrelious Benn. If Benn is able to play against Ohio State, look for Ohio State to match Benn up with CB Chimdi Chekwa.

Edge: Ohio State

Ohio State Rushing Offense vs Illinois Defense: Ohio State's rushing offense currently ranks 5th in The Big Ten, while Illinois' rushing defense ranks 3rd. The loss of Illinois LB Martez Wilson will bear watching.

With Ohio State RBs "Boom" Herron, Brandon Saine, and Jordan Hall struggling to establish a consistent running game in the first three games, look for QB Terrelle Pryor to supplement the Ohio State rushing attack. If Pryor is able to gain positive yardage on designed quarterback draws or on scrambling plays, Ohio State will be able to keep the dangerous Illinois offense on the sidelines.

Edge: Ohio State

Ohio State Passing Offense vs Illinois Defense: Ohio State's passing offense ranks 9th in The Big Ten, while Illinois' pass defense ranks 11th. Ohio State WR Dane Sanzenbacher has become Terrelle Pryor's "go to" receiver, with two touchdowns last weekend against Toledo. A good match-up for Ohio State is RB Brandon Saine out of the backfield isolated against a linebacker - Saine has 6 receptions, averaging 12 yards per catch.

Edge: Ohio State

Special Teams: Ohio State ranks 2nd in kickoff returns and 9th in punt returns; Illinois ranks 9th in kickoff returns and 10th in punt returns. This might be the game Ohio State WR Lamaar Thomas finally breaks one for a touchdown; Thomas has had 7 kickoff returns for 166 yards, with a long return of 32 yards.

Edge: Ohio State

Intangibles: Illinois has won seven of the last ten visits to Ohio Stadium. Another interesting fact is that Illinois was able to generate 455 yards against Ohio State last season, despite losing to Ohio State 30-20.

To be fair to Coach Jim Tressel, most of the seven losses to Illinois took place during John Cooper's early tenure at Ohio State (1988-2000). Still, Tressel did lose to Illinois in Ohio Stadium in 2001 and suffered the painful loss in 2007.

Edge: Illinois

Prediction: Illinois seems to play Ohio State better in Ohio Stadium. Considering how Illinois had a bye week last weekend, Illinois should be truly well-rested for its game against Ohio State.

One of the early indicators for Ohio State is the performance of QB Juice Williams. If Williams is efficient early, it usually points to Williams playing efficiently throughout the game. Consequently, if Juice Williams is playing inconsistently early, it usually points to an inconsistent performance throughout the game.

Ohio State needs to find its offense with this Big Ten opener. I predicted this game to be one of Ohio State's toughest games, and nothing has led me to back away from that prediction. I think this game will come down to the wire...

Ohio State 27, Illinois 21

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