The No.16 Illinois Fighting Illini and unranked Ohio State Buckeyes will battle for the Illibuck trophy in Champaign on Saturday afternoon.
At 6-0, the Illini are off to their best start since 1951 and are coming off wins over Big Ten rivals Northwestern and Indiana. Sophomore quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase has a 175.8 efficiency rating, completing 80-of-120 pass attempts for 1,238 yards with 10 touchdowns and three interceptions. Senior wide receiver A.J. Jenkins has been the main target in the passing game, catching 46 passes for 815 yards and seven touchdowns on the season. Defensively, junior defensive end Whitney Mercilus is coming off three quarterback sack performance against the Hoosiers, and now leads the nation in sacks with 8.5.
Ohio State's tumultuous season continues, with the Buckeyes entering this week's game with a 3-3 record. For the first time since 2004, the Buckeyes have lost back-to-back games, both to Big Ten opponents, and it's the first time since 1993 the Buckeyes have been 0-2 in the Big Ten.
The Buckeyes defense is doing its job, ranking 22nd in the nation in total defense and tied for 17th in scoring defense. Linebacker Andrew Sweat leads the team with 43 tackles, including a team-high five for a loss. Ohio State's offense has struggled to points on the scoreboard, primarily due to the inconsistent performance of fifth-year senior quarterback Joe Bauserman, who has been replaced by true freshman Braxton Miller. Junior running back Jordan Hall is the starter, and while he leads the team in all-purpose yardage (631 yards), sophomore running back Carlos Hyde has been the offense's most productive player this season. Hyde has a team-high 400 yards and five touchdowns on the ground.
Game date, time: 3:33pm ET, Saturday, October 15, 2011
Location: Memorial Stadium, Champaign, Illinois
TV channel: ABC
Spread: Fighting Illini are favored by 3.5 points
Series history: Buckeyes lead the series, 62-30-4
For further reading, news, discussion and more, visit Illinois blog Hail To The Orange and Ohio State blog Along The Olentangy. Here’s this week’s college football TV schedule, and stay tuned to SB Nation’s college football news hub for more.