Football Bowl Subdivision
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       === Illini face uphill climb in clash with undefeated Buckeyes ===
 
 Columbus, OH (Sports Network) - One of only six unbeaten teams left in the
 Football Bowl Subdivision, the sixth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes go in search
 of their 10th win of the season as they play host to the Illinois Fighting
 Illini this Saturday in Big Ten Conference action.
 
 Illinois is just 2-6 on the season, and the team is in the midst of a five-
 game losing streak. The Illini suffered a 31-17 Homecoming loss to Indiana
 last Saturday, dropping the team to 0-4 in the Big Ten. Illinois has lost 10
 straight to conference foes, with its last win coming over the Hoosiers last
 October. That was also the last true road win the team posted, as it has
 dropped six in a row on the enemy's home field.
 
 At the other end of the success spectrum sits Urban Meyer's Ohio State squad,
 which recently took out Penn State in Happy Valley, 35-23, to notch its ninth
 win of the season, and fifth in conference. The Buckeyes, who are ineligible
 to play in the Big Ten Championship Game or participate in a bowl game this
 year, are off to their best start since the 2007 team ran out to a 10-0 start.
 OSU hasn't enjoyed an off week yet, but will do so next week before closing
 out the regular season with a pair of tough bouts at Wisconsin (Nov. 17), and
 at home against bitter rival Michigan (Nov. 24).
 
 This game marks the 99th meeting in the all-time series between these two
 schools, and not surprisingly Ohio State owns a 63-30-4 advantage -- adjusted
 to reflect recent NCAA sanctions. Officially, the Buckeyes have won five of
 the last six meetings.
 
 The Illini, who are coached by former Meyer assistant Tim Beckman, actually
 outgained the Hoosiers last week, 372-292, but eight penalties for a loss of
 81 yards, along with a couple of costly fumbles doomed their chances. Add the
 fact that QB Nathan Scheelhaase was sacked seven times and it's somewhat
 surprising the team was able to stay as competitive as it was. RB Donovonn
 Young carried the ball 21 times for 124 yards (both career-highs), while
 Scheelhaase finished 17-of-27 for 176 yards and a TD. WR Darius Milliness led
 all pass catchers in the game with five grabs for 80 yards.
 
 The Illinois defense actually performed well for the most part, allowing the
 Hoosiers just 1-of-13 success on third-down conversion attempts and logging
 three sacks. LBs Jonathan Brown and Mason Monheim paced the unit with 11 and
 10 tackles, respectively.
 
 With a scoring average that comes in at just 18.0 ppg, it's little wonder the
 Illini have struggled the way they have. They average just 317.4 ypg (132.5
 ypg rushing, 184.9 ypg passing), and the unit has committed 20 turnovers while
 allowing a whopping 30 sacks. Scheelhaase has taken the majority of the snaps
 and is completing 61.3 percent of his passes for 839 yards, four TDs and five
 interceptions. Reilly O'Toole has also see considerable action, and he has
 been the more efficient of the two in hitting 74.7 percent of his throws for
 539 yards, six TDs and three picks. Young has amassed 400 yards and scored a
 pair of TDs on the ground, while catching 27 balls for 131 yards and a score.
 Ryan Lankford is the team's leading receiver with 29 grabs for 413 yards and
 five TDs.
 
 The UI defense allows 365.9 total ypg, with foes generating 152.6 ypg and
 scoring 17 TDs on the ground, while airing the ball out for 213.2 ypg and
 another 15 scores. As a result, the Illini give up nearly 31 ppg, and they've
 come up with only six interceptions and a dozen sacks. Brown paces the club
 with 55 tackles, 8.5 of which have been behind the line of scrimmage.
 
 Despite his team's struggles and the fan base clamoring for better results,
 Beckman realizes Rome wasn't built in a day and know it's going to take some
 time for the Illini to start showing dramatic improvement.
 
 "You're looking at some programs that have built some continuity and that's
 exactly what we're trying to do. You want it to happen fast, just like
 everybody else. You want to be successful as fast as you possibly can, but
 right now, we're not. We've got to evaluate things again that we're doing and
 create things that can help our players be successful and for this program to
 be successful."
 
 As expected, last Saturday's conference showdown with Penn State proved to be
 a physical one as the two teams fought tooth and nail in the first half. The
 Buckeyes took control after intermission however, as QB Braxton Miller
 accounted for 277 combined yards (143 passing, 134 rushing) in leading Ohio
 State to a double-digit victory. Miller, who a week prior suffered a neck/head
 injury that obviously looked worse than it was, finished the night 7-of-19
 passing with a TD and an interception. It was the sixth 100-yard rushing game
 of the season for Miller, as he became only the third Big Ten QB and first in
 Ohio State history to rush for a 1,000 yards in a season.
 
 Defensively, the Buckeyes stuffed the Penn State run game to the tune of 32
 net yards on 28 attempts, but allowed 327 yards and a pair of scores through
 the air. The two teams combined for 17 penalties for a loss of 160 yards, and
 each posted four sacks. LB Ryan Shazier registered seven tackles and returned
 an interception 17 yards for a TD at the start of the third quarter,
 highlighting a defensive effort that was impressive considering the opponent
 and hostile environment.
 
 With Miller leading the way, Ohio State is lighting up the scoreboard to the
 tune of 38.6 ppg this season, averaging 247.9 ypg on the ground and 183.9 ypg
 through the air. Miller paces the club both in passing (112-of-198, 1,527
 yards, 12 TDs, six interceptions) and rushing (166 carries, 1,093 yards, 12
 TDs), but Carlos Hyde has been effective in the running game as well, having
 rumbled his way to 600 yards and 10 scores. The Buckeyes boast a number of
 talented pass catchers, but Corey Brown (44 rec., 447 yards, one TD) and Devin
 Smith (23 rec., 505 yards, six TDs) have been the most productive.
 
 The Ohio State defense hasn't been as stingy as in years past, as foes are
 scoring just over 24 ppg, but the Buckeyes have performed well against the run
 (111.7 ypg). That was certainly the case last week at Penn State, but as was
 also the case in that contest, the defense has been vulnerable against the
 pass (277.9 ypg). Shazier continues to lead the team with 84 tackles, which is
 27 more than his closest teammate, and he has 9.5 TFL, four sacks and nine
 PBU. Bradley Roby is OSU's top guy in the secondary, as he leads the Big Ten
 with 18 passes defended. He has 43 total stops and two picks to his credit as
 well.
 
 While obviously pleased with the outcome last week at Penn State, and not
 dismissing his team's effort through the first nine games, Meyer knows there
 is still things upon which he expects his guys to improve.
 
 "It's good to be 9-0", he continued, "We are going to enjoy that win. We are
 going to work on some things. We were exposed on some things, but those guys
 are some good players and they are some good coaches. We've got to get
 better."
 
 
 
 10/31 10:53:45 ET