Ohio St.-Illinois Preview

Illinois proved it could win on the road last weekend. Now, it

must find a way to beat Ohio State at home.

Looking to remain unbeaten, the 16th-ranked Illini try to avoid

a ninth consecutive home defeat to the muddling Buckeyes on

Saturday in a Big Ten Leaders Division contest.

Facing an early 10-point deficit, Illinois (6-0, 2-0) regrouped

then rolled to a 41-20 win at Indiana in its first road game. The

Illini are in position to open with seven straight wins for the

first time since the 1951.

“That’s where we wanted to be,” said sophomore quarterback

Nathan Scheelhaase, who has thrown for 601 yards with six

touchdowns and one interception in the last two victories over

Northwestern and Indiana. “We’re excited about the point we’ve

gotten to right now, and we’re looking forward to going back home

and playing Ohio State.”

Another reason for Illinois’ collective excitement and

anticipation also stems from the fact that the school has been

outscored 227-92 while dropping eight in a row to Ohio State (3-3,

0-2) in Champaign since a 10-7 victory in 1991. The Illini have

lost three straight overall in the series since a 28-21 win over

the then-No. 1 Buckeyes in Columbus on Nov. 10, 2007.

Though Ohio State remains clouded with off-field distractions

resulting in the absence of some key players, Illini coach Ron Zook

believes his team cannot take anything for granted against a

Buckeyes squad trying to avoid losing three in a row for the first

time since 2004.

“We’re a good team,” Zook said. “But as I told them to be a

great team, we’ve got to do a lot more.”

Senior receiver A.J. Jenkins has done more than his part,

leading the conference with 46 receptions for 815 yards and seven

TDs. Five of those touchdowns have come over the last two games, in

which he’s totaled 18 catches for 450 yards. However, he’s been

held to three receptions for 48 yards in two versus Ohio State.

Scheelhaase, who rushed for 88 yards and a score at Indiana,

amassed just 121 total yards, threw an interception and was sacked

three times in last season’s 24-13 home loss to the Buckeyes.

Jenkins and Scheelhaase have a chance to improve on those

performances against an Ohio State defense that gives up 24.3

points per contest and blew a 27-6 third quarter lead to lose 34-27

at No. 14 Nebraska last Saturday.

“We’ve got to get a few stops on defense,” coach Luke Fickell

said. “That’s what it comes down to. We’ve just got to do a better

job. I’m sure there are lessons out there. We’ve got to figure out

what they are and grow from them. That’s part of football, part of

life.”

Trying to avoid a third consecutive loss Buckeyes will get back

defensive lineman Melvin Fellows after he was suspended for last

week’s contest for taking too much money for a summer job.

After missing the Nebraska game for the same reason and the

previous five for accepting improper benefits from a tattoo-parlor

owner, running back Dan “Boon” Herron will make his 2011 debut

Saturday. A first-team All-Big Ten selection in 2010, Herron rushed

for 1,555 yards and 16 TDs a year ago. The Buckeyes are 18-1 in

games in which the senior has rushed for at least 55 yards.

He’s totaled 199 yards and four touchdowns on 49 carries in

three games versus Illinois.

The Buckeyes also expect freshman quarterback Braxton Miller to

play after he suffered a sprained right ankle in the third quarter

at Nebraska. Miller was 5 of 8 for 95 yards with a TD and rushed

for 91 yards on 10 carries prior to the injury.

He’ll get his first look at an Illinois defense which ranks 17th

in the country, allowing 17.8 points per contest, and has forced a

turnover in 21 straight games – the longest stretch in the

nation.