#2 Ohio State-Illinois: the Brutally Honest Game Preview

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jim tressel

The last three times Illinois beat Ohio State: 2007, 2001, 1999, it was in Columbus. For some reason, the Illini play the Buckeyes much better in the Buckeye state than they do at home. The last time they beat Ohio State in Champaign, Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer were at the peak of their popularity.

Whenever Illinois is having a good season, they seem to beat the Buckeyes, as they have a 9-11 record against
OSU dating back to 1988. Only Michigan has more victories over Ohio State during the span, posting an 11-10-1
record.

However, this year is not a (as 50 Cent would say) “Champagne Campaign.

There is one thing Illinois can claim over #2 OSU- a character on the ABC sitcom “Modern Family” wore a Juice Williams jersey for an entire episode last season. So until Courtney Cox rocks a kid size Terrelle Pryor jersey on “Cougar Town”- advantage Illini.

By Paul M. Banks

illinois-jersey_modern_family

Throughout the season, I’ll be bringing you these informative yet blunt game previews of every contest I cover; with a heavy focus on Northwestern, Illinois, Notre Dame, and the Big Ten in general.

Illinois synopsis:

The last time we heard the word “change” so strongly associated with Illinois, a junior senator from the state was beginning his 2008 Presidential campaign. New coordinators, new quarterback, new wide receivers. So far, we do know that this team is much improved over last year’s 3-9 squad. However, we don’t know just how much taller than a midget they truly are. This is the first litmus test. And if they win one of these next four (@PSU, @ MSU follow) they should be in great shape to make a bowl. Of course, much of that has to do with bowl games having to invite 5-7 teams this year, and also the back half of the schedule is happy fun time.

The Illini have improved on a strong run game from ’09, and their run defense is vastly improved. They held NIU’s Chad Spann greatly in check a week before he nearly won the Doak Walker Award against Minnesota.

A lot of the improvement has to do with the new coordinators taking over, and also their taking on some of  Ron Zook’s old responsibilities. But don’t feel too bad for the Zooker, he still gets to play Betty Draper’s new husband on “Mad Men.”

henry francis

ron zook

ohio state jesus

OSU synopsis:

Quarterback Terrelle Pryor now owns four of the five games in OSU history where a QB has topped 100 yards rushing and 200 yards passing. His 330 yards of total offense represented his fifth game of 300 or more yards and moved him to within one of the school record of six games held by Joe Germaine between 1996-98.

He’s also now fifth in school history with 40 touchdown passes. His numbers read 71-107-939-10-2 through the air with 43-269-3 on the ground. I like his Heisman chances, and you can read why here.

Wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher had four TD receptions last week, and as you can see from the picture below, his Justin Timberlake style of dress is just as superb as his pass-catching skills. “Don’t be so quick to…..walk away,” is a favorite expression of JT’s, and Sanzenbacher is quickly running away from opposing DBs to the tune of 20-316-5, tops on the team in all categories.

sanzenbacher

Guys you’ll see Saturday eventually playing on Sundays:

Given that the NFL Mock Draft is by far my most read regular segment, I wish I could cover the Buckeyes every year as I would my hometown team. There’s so much NFL quality talent in Columbus each autumn that my job would be easier and my mock even more widely read. Plus I’d get to work the phrase BUCKNUTS! in on a much more frequent basis.

There’s at least one or two future NFL players in every position group. DT Cameron Heyward could be a top ten pick, DE Dexter Larimore has some pro potential, Linebackers Brian Rolle and Ross Homan, defensive backs Chimdi Chekwa and Jermale Hines, OL Justin Boren and Mike Brewster. Pryor himself too.

DeVier Posey may not have the same GQ wardrobe or late ’90s boy band good looks of Sanzenbacher, but scouts love his ideal size, speed and ball skills for a professional receiver.

ILLINI- Mikel LeShoure is not Rashard Mendenhall yet. But there’s an outside chance he could be someday. Martez and Tavon Wilson (no relation) have NFL measurables and athleticism, but have not displayed the football resume and instincts of a prospect for “The Shield,” so far. But then again look at former Illini DT Josh “I’ve had a little bit too much, much” Brent. He made the Dallas Cowboys despite accomplishing nothing on the collegiate gridiron.

And don’t forget Senior punter Anthony Santella ranks second in the nation with an average of 48.9 yards on 15 punts this season, including seven punts of 50+ yards and three inside the 20. He’ll get a workout Saturday as the Illini offensive line will struggle versus the Ohio State defensive front.

Prediction to be taken with a grain of salt (actually make that a whole truckload of salt)

Banks’ 2010 Picks Record 6-2

Ohio State 21, Illinois 9 Yes, this Champaign is not bubbly. The first sporting event I can ever remember watching is the 1984 Rose Bowl, in which UCLA throttled Illinois 45-9. It was a game attended by my eldest sister, a freshman at UI at the time. At age 14, I visited a different older sister attending Illinois, and I got to “party” there. And by “party” I mean, well that’s up to your imagination. Basically, I knew since age 10 that my blood is colored orange and blue.

Seriously, you should see the see look on the nurse’s face whenever they draw my blood. Also the colors of my business/website. However, I’m making this pick in the voice of an emotionless, logical robot. (Kind of like a Kirk Ferentz press conference)

As a close observer of Illini football for nearly three decades, I’ve read this chapter before, I know how this story ends, and  I would have to be simply BUCKNUTS to pick the Illini.

Paul M. Banks is President and CEO of The Sports Bank.net , a Midwest focused webzine. He is also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, the Chicago Tribune’s blog network, Walter Football.com, the Washington Times Communities, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports.com

You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank

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