Illinois-Ohio St. Preview

Ohio State is on the verge of matching its Big Ten record for consecutive regular-season victories after surviving a scare away from home last weekend.

There’s another tough road test looming for the No. 13 Buckeyes, but they’ll first try to get by visiting Illinois on Saturday night.

"We aren’t looking past nobody, because that’s how you get beat," said safety Tyvis Powell, whose team visits No. 8 Michigan State on Nov. 8. "We take every opponent seriously; when you go in there and think you can just slap somebody to win, that’s when you get in a fight. … Nobody should even be thinking about Michigan State at this point."

The Buckeyes (6-1, 3-0) are one-half game behind the Spartans for first place in the East Division after getting by Penn State 31-24 in double-overtime last Saturday.

Ohio State blew a 17-point lead while failing to score in the second half but found a way to get it done behind freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett, who tied it with a five-yard touchdown run in the first OT and scored from four yards out to put the Buckeyes up for good.

"You’re down by several points in that environment, and (you can’t) look to anyone else for help. There’s 11 guys out there, and you have to score a touchdown, and we did," coach Urban Meyer said. "Invested players and invested teams really celebrate wins, and our guys did. You started getting your tail kicked and you came back and won. That builds toughness."

Barrett is expected to be OK after spraining a ligament in his left knee. He ranks second in the FBS with a 172.8 passer rating despite throwing for 74 yards and two interceptions against the Nittany Lions.

The Buckeyes have yet to lose in Big Ten play under Meyer during the regular season, going 19-0 since the start of 2012. Ohio State owns the conference record with 20 straight wins, set Oct. 15, 2005-Nov. 3, 2007.

The Buckeyes enter as heavy favorites against the Fighting Illini, whom they have outscored by an average of 19.3 points during a six-game winning streak. They outgained Illinois 441-132 on the ground in a 60-35 road victory Nov. 16.

"Illinois is much improved from a year ago," Meyer said. "So there will be no overlooking anyone."

The Fighting Illini (4-4, 1-3) had lost three in a row before beating Minnesota 28-24 last Saturday. Illinois was outgained 411-263 but scored the go-ahead touchdown on V’Angelo Bentley’s 12-yard fumble return with 6:33 remaining.

It was the Fighting Illini’s second win in their last 26 conference games.

"There’s still work to do," said Bentley, who became the first player in school history to bring back a touchdown via kick return, punt return, interception return and fumble return. "I just want to make plays for our team to win, however they come, getting points or setting up points."

Reilly O’Toole went 14 of 21 for 118 yards with a touchdown, giving him four and four picks in his last four games. The senior also ran for a team-high 59 yards and a score.

The Fighting Illini are 13th in the conference with 106.5 rushing yards per game. They haven’t been able to stop the run, either, giving up an average of 258.6 yards to rank 120th out of 125 FBS teams.

That sets up well for Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott, who has 499 rushing yards over the last four games. Fellow running back Rod Smith won’t be available after leaving the team due to personal reasons.

Illinois has dropped nine straight and 18 of 19 against Top 25 foes since stunning No. 1 Ohio State in a 28-21 road victory Nov. 10, 2007, to end the Buckeyes’ 20-game conference win streak.

The Fighting Illini fell 45-14 at then-No. 21 Nebraska on Sept. 27 in their only meeting against a ranked team this year.

"No question it’ll be a challenge, but we’re used to challenges," coach Tim Beckman said.