Illinois Fighting Illini (1-1 SU, 0-2 ATS) vs. Ohio St. Buckeyes (2-1 SU, 2-1 ATS), Ohio Stadium, September 26th, 3:30 p.m. Eastern, Columbus, OH; TV: ABC
By Oracle of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Illinois +14/Ohio St. -14
The Big Ten conference officially kicks off this weekend, as the Illinois Fighting Illini travel to Columbus to take on the Ohio St. Buckeyes in a game that will air on ABC at 3:30 p.m. Eastern time. Both teams have one loss on the year and whoever comes out on the losing end in this contest will start the conference year in a hole.
For the Buckeyes, though, theyre trying to get back into the Top 10 after losing to USC two weeks ago. Theyre stock took a hit with the loss and they have fallen out of National Championship talk although it is still a possibility.
As for the Fighting Illini, an early season signature win will do them wonders, especially since theyve looked mediocre at best during their first two games.
The Buckeyes are not surprisingly double digit favorites -14 to open up at many online sportsbooks. The Buckeyes have covered two of their first three games of the 2009 season. Meanwhile, Illinois has not covered either of their games.
The over/under has opened up at 51 points as well.
Illinois does have one thing going for them heading into Saturdays contest they have had two weeks to prepare for OSU, as they had a bye last weekend.
Their offense hasnt been the problem with their 247 rushing yards, good enough for 13th in the nation. They also average 436.5 total yards per game, which is 30th.
Defense has been the issue, giving up an average of 420 yards in their first two weeks, including 442 to Missouri in a 37-6 blowout loss.
Juice Williams is back behind center for the Illini, but there may be a quarterback controversy brewing. Williams injured his thigh during the opening series against Missouri State in a blowout win. Eddie McGee took over and looked sharp, going 13-of-17 for 164 yards and a touchdown. McGee also scored two touchdowns and the ground and garnered 55 yards.
Williams, though, is probable for the game at OSU. Ron Zook will more than likely use his veteran quarterback to try and upset the Buckeyes. Williams was part of a stunning 28-21 win against OSU back in 2007 when he threw four touchdown passes and ran for 70 yards. At that time the Buckeyes were number one in the nation and on their way to play for a BCS championship. Zook is hoping Williams can provide the same magic.
If McGee has to play for Williams, it may be a long night for a quarterback who hasnt been in these types of games before. Keep an eye out for an injury update throughout this week.
OSU coach Jim Tressel normally has a dominate record against his opponents, but the Fighting Illini have always been a thorn on his side. Hes 4-2 against Illinois and both losses came at home in Columbus.
But this is a different OSU team. Terrelle Pryor is slowly starting to come into his own at the helm. Hes not just a rusher (leads the team with 177 yards), but hes a legit thrower too, which many people questioned. Hes tossed for 613 yards and four scores while rushing for two TDs as well. Hell need help from receivers like Dane Sanzenbacher who has 241 yards and three touchdowns this season.
The Buckeyes defense is legit as always, giving up an average of just 15 points during their first three games. They held USC to just 18 in a loss and a season high 27 to Navy in their season opening win.
The Buckeyes beat IU last season 30-20. They used Chris Wells 143 yards to catapult them to victory. Wells was drafted by Arizona in April, though, so hell be missed in this contest. Pryor did have 110 yards rushing in that game along with a touchdown throw.
Williams, meanwhile, had a nice game by throwing for 192 yards and two touchdowns.
Bettors will need to know a very telling stat that favors big time toward Illinois. The Fighting Illini are 6-2 ATS in the last eight head-to-head meetings with the mighty Buckeyes. OSU did end up covering in the 10-point win last season but failed to do so in the upset win by Illinois in 2007.
Illinois also covers well when theyre double digit dogs, as theyre 7-1 ATS in their last eight in such cases.
Also, Ohio St. has not covered very well at home, as theyre just 2-7 ATS during their last nine contests in Columbus. However, they have covered back-to-back games four times in a row.
Over/unders have a trend here, too. The Over is 4-1 in the last five matchups in Columbus.
Its safe to say whether Illinois has been on the national scene or not during this decade, they seem to give Ohio State fits every time they meet. The Fighting Illini are looking to capture the magic of the 2007 season while Ohio State looks to sneak back into the BCS title talk.
Oracles Pick: The public is one-sided with OSU so far and it probably wont change. With that said, look for the well rested Illinois team to come out and play well on Saturday. It may not be well enough to win, but good enough to cover. Take the Fighting Illini +14!