While some national title contenders might face challenges down the stretch, Ohio State doesn't figure to be one of them. The Buckeyes will be favored from here on out, and after Illinois this week, they've got Indiana the next, followed by a trip to Michigan to face a Wolverines team that has been struggling lately.
Illinois has lost its five conference games by an average of 21.4 points. That margin doesn't figure to improve Saturday -- it doesn't help that the team will be without a starting offensive lineman.
Rankings and records: Ohio State is 9-0 (5-0) and ranked third in both major polls, as well as in the BCS standings. Unranked Illinois is 3-6 (0-5). The Buckeyes hold the edge in the all-time series with a 65-30-4 record against the Illini.
Vegas: Ohio State opened as a 32-point favorite.
Weather: Cloudy skies and a high of 53 are expected. There is a 20 percent chance of rain.
Three names to know
Braxton Miller -- Miller is more efficient this season, improving his completion percentage dramatically while also increasing his average yardage per pass attempt. That's just added trouble for defenses, because Miller is also dangerous running the ball, as usual.
Nathan Scheelhaase -- The Illini QB has racked up 771 passing yards over his last two games, though he also threw three interceptions. Given the number of passes he attempted, three picks isn't a horrible number, but he can't afford any mistakes against Ohio State.
Carlos Hyde -- He leads the Buckeyes in rushing despite missing the first three games of the year. Hyde has a streak of four 100-yard games and he's got a great shot at making it five in a row against a flimsy Illinois defense.
Two things at stake
Ohio State is one misstep by Alabama or Florida State away from being in position to play for the BCS title. One OSU player is confident the Buckeyes would beat either of them, but they may never get a chance. The Buckeyes are also in firm control of the Leaders Division, and even a loss to Illinois wouldn't be particularly damaging, at least in the conference picture. It would kill their national title hopes, of course.
Illinois is still looking for Big Ten win No. 1, and this is the Illini's last stand for bowl eligibility -- one more loss and they're assured a losing record, keeping them out of the bowl picture. A victory over OSU would easily be the biggest of the year for Illinois, and this team could sure use some good vibes after enduring a lengthy losing streak.
How to witness
TV: Noon ET, ESPN (Dave Pasch, Brian Griese, Tom Luginbill)