Big Ten Matchup
Champaign, IL - It turned out Illinois' shocking upset late last season did not push Ohio State out of the BCS title chase. Pulling one off this year would keep the No. 10 Buckeyes out of the BCS picture altogether.
Ohio State's hopes for a BCS bowl berth and a piece of the Big Ten title are at stake Saturday, as it visits an Illini squad trying to salvage its season in a matchup featuring two of the nation's most athletic quarterbacks.
Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have Ohio State -10 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 86% of bets for this game have been placed on Ohio State -10 (View College Football bet percentages).
When these teams met Nov. 10 last season, Illinois was a big underdog going on the road to face the top-ranked Buckeyes. Ohio State was stunned 28-21 by the Illini and had its perfect season ruined, but ended up with a spot in the BCS title game, only to lose 38-24 to LSU.
The win helped boost Illinois to a Rose Bowl berth, and it now enters the rematch still looking to become bowl eligible.
"It's not so unlike a year ago when there was not one person in the world that gave us an opportunity to win the game," Illinois coach Ron Zook said. "Doesn't mean we're gonna win this week, but I think our guys are gonna come out and play the way we all want them to play."
The Buckeyes (8-2, 5-1) were brought back into this year's Big Ten title race thanks to previously unbeaten Penn State's loss at Iowa last Saturday.
If Ohio State wins Saturday and against Michigan the following week, it will finish with at least a share of the conference crown for the fourth straight year. The Buckeyes also would have a good shot to earn a BCS bowl berth because they sit 11th in those standings, and a team must finish in the top 12 to be considered.
A third straight trip to the BCS championship game likely went by the wayside with a 13-6 loss to Penn State on Oct. 25.
"November decides where you go, point blank, period," Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor said. "OK, we lost to Penn State and it's a big deal. Now if we lose to Illinois or Michigan, that's going to tear our seniors apart and I don't want that to happen.
"I won't let that happen."
Two turnovers by Pryor in the final minutes against Penn State played a big role in Ohio State's only loss, but the freshman phenom bounced back last week in a 45-10 win at Northwestern.
Pryor did not commit a turnover and his scrambling ability led to some key third-down conversions. He ended up 9-of-14 for 197 yards and three touchdowns while rushing five times for 33 yards.
"That's what he can do," said Chris "Beanie" Wells, who ran for 140 yards and two scores. "The thing about Terrelle is that he's a guy that always wants to get better."
Now Pryor hopes to torment the Illini (5-5, 3-3) just as Illinois QB Juice Williams did to the Buckeyes last year, when he threw for four touchdowns and ran for 70 yards.
Williams, though, has thrown multiple interceptions in three straight games, including two last Saturday in a surprising 23-17 loss at Western Michigan. He ran for 68 yards and threw for 328 and a score, but completed only 20 of 45 passes.
Williams is 326 yards of total offense shy of the single-season school record and 241 passing yards away from the program's first 3,000-yard season since 2001. His 577 rushing yards lead Big Ten quarterbacks - he's 10th overall - and Pryor is second with 450 despite not starting until the fourth game of the season.
Pryor's pass attempts have been limited, though he has completed 65.1 percent with nine touchdowns compared to three interceptions. While Williams tops the Big Ten with 2,769 yards passing and a 141.9 passer rating, Pryor is at 153.6 but hasn't had enough attempts to qualify.
Illinois' offense averages a league-best 437.8 yards, but Ohio State tops the conference in total defense at 284.5 allowed per game.
This will be Jim Tressel's 100th game as Buckeyes coach, having gone 81-18 in eight seasons. He can pass Earle Bruce for third on the school's all-time wins list Saturday.
Ohio State has won a school-record 14 straight road games in conference play, and has taken six in a row at Champaign since 1991. The Buckeyes have a 60-30-4 lead in the series, which dates to 1902.
"It's gonna be a great atmosphere. I don't think there's any question about that," Zook said. "The place will be rocking. We've got a great football team coming in here."
Top Betting Trends:
All games in this series since 1992
ILLINOIS is 10-4 against the spread versus OHIO ST since 1992
OHIO ST is 9-5 straight up against ILLINOIS since 1992
6 of 9 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL since 1992
Games over the last 3 seasons
ILLINOIS is 2-0 against the spread versus OHIO ST over the last 3 seasons
ILLINOIS is 1-1 straight up against OHIO ST over the last 3 seasons
1 of 2 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons
All games played at ILLINOIS since 1992
ILLINOIS is 4-2 against the spread versus OHIO ST since 1992
OHIO ST is 6-0 straight up against ILLINOIS since 1992
3 of 3 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL since 1992
Games played at ILLINOIS over the last 3 seasons.
ILLINOIS is 1-0 against the spread versus OHIO ST over the last 3 seasons
OHIO ST is 1-0 straight up against ILLINOIS over the last 3 seasons
1 of 1 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons
Key Player Injuries
[WR] Ray Small is out indefinitely. - Suspension - 11/06/08
[OG] Ben Person is expected to miss. - Leg - 11/04/08
[OL] Mike Adams expected to miss the rest of the season - Ankle - 10/16/08
[OL] J.B. Shugarts expected to miss the rest of the season - Shoulder - 10
[DE] Lawrence Wilson expected to miss the rest of the season - Knee - 10/1
[CB] Andre Amos expected to miss the rest of the season. - Knee - 10/01/08
[OL] Xavier Fulton injured last game, %27?%27 - Shoulder - 11/02/08
[DT] D'Angelo McCray has decided to transfer. - Academics - 08/01/08
[DT] Sirod Williams expected to miss the entire season - ACL - 08/13/08
[DB] Miami Thomas is out for the season. - ACL - 09/10/08
[RB] Daniel Dufrene upgraded to probable, but limited. - Personal - 11/02/
[RB] Mikel LeShoure is expected to miss. - Jaw - 11/04/08
[WR] Brian Gamble has left the team. - Undisclosed - 09/08/08
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Posted: 11/11/08 5:15 PM