After a long bye week, Illinois begins its brutal opening stretch of conference play tomorrow afternoon against #2 Ohio State.
Illinois will be with the services of Hugh Thornton and Michael Buchanan, both of whom were questionable due to off-the-field problems.
As if this game against the Big Ten’s (and perhaps the nation’s) best team couldn’t get any bigger, Illini basketball recruit Mike Shaw will be in the stands on an unofficial visit.
About Ohio State
Ohio State has won 10 straight since getting upset at Purdue last season.
The 2010 Buckeyes are stronger than the 2009 team in just about every category, with Ohio State getting outstanding play from junior quarterback Terrelle Pryor, whom many believe is the front runner in this year’s Heisman race.
While the Buckeyes are an intimidating foe, keep in mind that Illinois handed the #1 Buckeyes a shocking loss in Columbus back in 2007 and that the Boilermakers were able to shock a visiting Ohio State team in 2009.
History has proven that anything can happen, but let’s be realistic.
A lot of things will have to go right for the Illini (and a lot wrong for the Buckeyes) for Illinois to come out victorious.
Here’s hoping that the Illini can stick around for a while and play competitive for the most part.
In and Out
After using a bye week to try and recover from an overwhelming number of injuries, Illinois will still be short handed against the Buckeyes tomorrow.
Cornerback Terry Hawthorne, whom fans hoped would be cleared to play after suffering a foot injury during preseason camp, has been listed as doubtful for the game. Illinois will surely miss his presence when this talented Buckeye squad takes the field.
The good news for the Illini is that Thornton and Buchanan will both be back for the game, though neither will be starting.
Thornton had to be carted off the field after suffering a scary neck injury against NIU two weeks ago. He was diagnosed with a sprain in his neck, but was expected to recover over the bye week.
Last weekend, Thornton was involved in an altercation at a local campus bar, leaving his status uncertain until earlier Friday.
Zook has reviewed the issue and confirmed that Thornton will play against the Buckeyes.
Buchanan had some more serious legal issues to deal with. He was arrested for a DUI before the SIU game and suspended from the team for the past three weeks.
Zook and Athletic Director Ron Guenther met with Buchanan this week, and the sophomore will play on Saturday.
Writing Illini Prediction
Illinois will hang around for a quarter as the Buckeyes will be a bit out of sink in their first road game of the season.
Illinois will capitalize on an early special teams’ blunder by the Buckeyes and some big runs from Leshoure to score early.
However, the Buckeyes will settle into their rhythm in the second quarter and break open a two-touchdown lead going into the half.
Illinois will struggle again to find its offense in the second half as a dominate Ohio State defense keys in on the run game and forces the Illini to throw the ball.
As the run game dwindles, the coaching staff will put Eddie McGee in to keep Nathan Scheelhaase from getting too beat up as Illinois’ O-line struggles to protect the redshirt quarterback.
The Illini are unable to get into the end zone again and must settle for field goals on several drives as the Buckeyes continue to pick apart the still-weak secondary that will dearly miss Hawthorne and Supo Sanni.
The Illini will show glimpses of promise in this game and Leshoure will still manage to eclipse the 100-yard mark despite all of the attention that he will receive.
Unfortunately but not surprisingly, the Illini will fall to 2-2.
Ohio State 31, Illinois 13
Illini Game MVP Prediction
Junior running back Mikel Leshoure
Ohio State Game MVP Prediction
Junior quarterback Terrelle Pryor
Some Predictions from the Credentialed
→ Bob Asmussen: (News Gazette): Ohio State 35, Illinois 14
→ Tom Young: (News Gazette): Ohio State 30, Illinois 7
→ Shannon Ryan (Chicago Tribune): Ohio State 38, Illinois 13
→ Scott Powers (ESPN-Chicago): Ohio State 41, Illinois 21
→ Adam Rittenberg (ESPN): Ohio State 31, Illinois 16
Until tomorrow’s kickoff, which is set for 11:00 a.m. central time.
The game is on the Big Ten Network.
Writing Illini will pick up with live play-by-play and blogging in the second half, and then recap the first half later tomorrow afternoon.
Topics: Adam Rittenberg, Big Ten, Big Ten Conference, Big Ten Football, Bob Asmussen, DUI, Eddie McGee, Football, Heisman Trophy, Hugh Thornton, Illini, Illini Football, Illinois, Illinois Fighting Illini Football, Illinois Football, Michael Buchanan, Mikel Leshoure, Nathan Scheelhaase, NIU Football, NIU Huskies, NIU Huskies Football, Ohio State Buckeyes, Ohio State Buckeyes Football, Ohio State Football, Purdue, Purdue Boilermakers, Purdue Football, Ron Guenther, Ron Zook, Ron Zook Nathan Scheelhaase, Scott Powers, Shannon Ryan, SIU Football, Terrelle Pryor, Terry Hawthorne, Tom Young