Posted by Adam Jacobi
OHIO STATE WILL WIN IF: It wins the battle of the trenches. Illinois can move the ball pretty well, and its defensive front seven pretty much ripped Brock Osweiler to shreds when Arizona State came to Champaign in September. That said, Ohio State is supposed to be able to win these types of battles, especially with all-conference linemen like Mike Brewster and Mike Adams up front on offense. So if the OSU rushing attack can push the point of attack 1-2 yards forward on a consistent basis, the stable of Buckeye tailbacks should be able to generate yardage, drives, and points.
ILLINOIS WILL WIN IF: The offense can get A.J. Jenkins free early and often. Ohio State is going to present the toughest challenge the Illinois offense has faced to date, and the running lanes the Illini have gotten thus far in the year won't be quite as wide open on Saturday. Thus, it's going to be imperative that the Illinois downfield passing game gets going, and in case you hadn't noticed, A.J. Jenkins is basically Illinois' entire downfield passing game. That singularity of talent has hardly been a detriment thus far, as Jenkins has an obscene 450 yards receiving in his two Big Ten games this year, but if he gets bottled up Illinois is probably in for a long afternoon.
X-FACTOR: This is more like the Brax-Factor (actually, let's not call him that ever), as Braxton Miller's ankle is undoubtedly still sore from the injury that took him out of last week's loss at Nebraska. Miller's primary strength is his ability to run the ball, both on designed runs and on scrambles, so if his mobility is limited and he's primarily a pocket passer, that bodes extremely well for the Illini.
Miller's young enough that his read progression is basically Primary Receiver, then Scramble, and maybe a Secondary Receiver between the two if Bo Pelini's feeling optimistic. That's usually not a bad thing, because Miller on the move is generally a net positive for the Buckeye offense, but if he can't get moving as easily, then we're looking at a situation not unlike Nebraska's struggles in 2010 when Taylor Martinez was hampered by lingering ankle problems and was forced to rely on his arm more often. There lay pain for the Huskers, and if Miller's hobbled, there lies trouble for OSU on Sunday.