|Braxton Miller leads the Big Ten with 1,093 rushing yards and is second with 12 rushing touchdowns on the season. (US Presswire)|
Kickoff: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Spread: Ohio State by 25.5
Watchability: Unless you're related to an Ohio State reserve player who's likely to get in the game, there's not a lot of intrigue surrounding this matchup. Ohio State is coming off of its biggest win of the season at Penn State while the Fighting Illini haven't won a game in more than a month and a half.
Shining stars: Illinois -- The Fighting Illini have a formidable rushing tandem in QB Nathan Scheelhaase and Donovonn Young. In last weekend's loss to Indiana, Scheelhaase's ran 26 times for just 32 yards but that number includes the seven sacks that the Illinois offensive line conceded. Young, however, finished with a career-high 124 rushing yards in the losing effort. Ohio State -- Not much more can be said about the impact Braxton Miller is having on the Buckeyes this season. Week in and week out, he's saving Ohio State's perfect season. Last weekend, he accounted for three more touchdowns (one passing, two rushing) as he upped his touchdown total to 12 on the season, second in the conference to Montee Ball's 13. The Illini defense has given up an average of 187 rushing yards per game during their five-game losing streak but given Miller's injury history, he should me mindful that his health comes first.
Who could steal the show: Illinois -- If there's one place where the Buckeyes have looked suspect, it's in their secondary. Illinois wide receiver Ryan Lankford is far and away the team's biggest deep play threat with 29 catches for 413 yards and five touchdowns on the season. Ohio State -- Linebacker Ryan Shazier earned defensive player of the week honors after logging seven tackles, two sacks, and a pick-6 against the Nittany Lions last Saturday night. After Etienne Sabino broke his leg three weeks ago, Shazier emerged as the Buckeyes' best linebacker. He'll be tasked with containing the mobile Scheelhaase.
You going? Ranking the road trip: With only three games left in their season and just two of those scheduled at Ohio Stadium, Buckeye fans should embrace this potentially special team. Postseason or not, Urban Meyer's first season in Columbus should be celebrated. Tickets will be extremely tough to come by for the regular-season finale against Michigan.
Magic number for Illinois: 11. Linebacker Jonathan Brown, one of 12 Butkus Award semifinalists, had a season-high 11 tackles last weekend against Indiana. Brown is the team's leader with 55 tackles and 8.5 tackles for loss. Slowing down Miller and Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde will be his primary responsibilities.
Magic number for Ohio State: 29. The Buckeyes have 29 rushing touchdowns this season, the most in the Big Ten. Only two Ohio State teams in the last 29 years have scored more rushing touchdowns than this year's squad (31 in 2002, 35 in 1984) and the Buckeyes still have three games left. The Illinois defense allows more than 150 rushing yards per game, the 55th best mark in the country.
The game comes down to: Ohio State's rushing attack. If it's in sync, the Buckeyes should wear down the Illinois defense and pound out as many long, sustained drives as they want. Illinois doesn't have enough offense to keep up with Miller and company.
Eye on College Football's take: Illinois at Ohio State - The only way Ohio State loses this game is if it plays undisciplined, stupid football and turns the ball over numerous times. As long as they avoid that kind of play and Braxton Miller is healthy, this is a game that should be over before halftime. Though Ohio State does have a tendency to play down to its opponents. -- Tom Fornelli
Prediction: Ohio State 42, Illinois 21
For more Big Ten coverage, follow Mike Singer and Dave Carey @CBSSportsBigTen.