Tomorrow’s game could push one streak up to 22 and another to 20. The first is the Ohio State Buckeyes‘ overall win streak and the second is the Illinois Fighting Illini’s Big Ten losing streak. To avoid that situation, Ohio State would have to melt down or Illinois will have to play its best game in years.
The numbers to suggest that Ohio State should win this game are plentiful. The Buckeyes are sixth in the nation in total offense and 10th in total defense. Comparatively, the Fighting Illini rank 56th and 114th. Illinois has been outscored this season 312-267. Ohio State has outscored its opponents 434-153. It seems that the odds are impossible for the Fighting Illini, but highly improbable is a more accurate term.
In order to have any chance to win this game, Illinois must play to its strengths. The Fighting Illini must force the pace of this game into a pass-happy contest. Illinois’ passing game averages just under 289 yards a game, good for 25th in the country. Their best playmaker is quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase and putting the ball into his hands with opportunities to spread the ball around will be important for the Fighting Illini.
The upside for that approach for Ohio State is that it would allow the Buckeyes’ pass rush to be optimized. Ohio State is tied for 16th in FBS, averaging 2.89 sacks per game. Sophomore defensive lineman Noah Spence (six sacks) leads the Buckeyes’ pressure unit that will be looking to make Scheelhaase uncomfortable. The pressure can force throws by Scheelhaase and give the Ohio State secondary led by junior Doran Grant (three interceptions) opportunities to make plays on the ball.
If Illinois wants to have any chance to win this game tomorrow, it has to play a perfect game and get some breaks along the way. Ohio State’s depth and execution are simply more than the Fighting Illini can handle. Both of these streaks will be continued for another week.