This 'n' that
Staff writer Bob Asmussen spent Monday talking to the Illinois players and coaches. Here's what he learned:
Reports out of Ohio State indicate quarterback Braxton Miller will play Saturday against Illinois.
Miller suffered an ankle injury in the third quarter of Saturday's game at Nebraska and didn't return.
But Miller is reportedly off crutches and walking fine. He is listed first on the Ohio State depth chart ahead of Joe Bauserman, who struggled in relief against Nebraska.
"Miller is an athletic guy," Illinois coach Ron Zook said. "He's a guy who is hard to get ahold of, a guy who causes the defense a lot of problems.
"All you've got to do is look at the first half or so, until he got hurt, against Nebraska. He was pretty good."
Zook said he expects Miller to play Saturday.
"Oh, yeah," Zook said. "When you saw it on tape, it didn't look like a high ankle sprain."
Illinois receiver Darius Millines is off crutches and feeling better after missing two games with a foot injury.
Zook labeled him as "day-do-day."
They sure aren't being repetitive at the Big Ten office.
Illinois received its sixth Player of the Week honor with Tavon Wilson earning the defensive award. Wilson had a 66-yard fumble return for a touchdown and led the team with 11 tackles.
"I'm proud of him," Zook said. "We talk about guys being in position when the play happens, make it. Plays are going to happen. That's what they're doing."
Six different Illini have won the awards. Besides Wilson, the honors have gone to A.J. Jenkins (offense), Jonathan Brown (defense), Derek Dimke (special teams), Houston Bates (freshman) and Donovonn Young (freshman).
"It's great," Wilson said. "It shows how much better of a team we're becoming. Everyone's getting individual awards. It was exciting for me to get one this week. We've just got to go out there and continue to play together. Then, those types of things are going to happen for others."
CHANGE OF PACE
The Illini had a different schedule Monday night. Normally they have a workout on the Memorial Stadium turf. This week, they had a film session instead.
Going into the season, Zook said he planned to closely monitor how his team was looking and feeling. Without a break until after the ninth game, he doesn't want to wear his team out on the practice field.
"Just a changeup," Zook said. "We're halfway through and we'll see what we like best," Zook said.
"We want to make sure that we're fresh."
Vegas oddsmakers like Illinois against Ohio State. But not by much.
The Illini are 3.5-point favorites against the Buckeyes as of late Monday afternoon. But the line can move during the week. Earlier in the season, Illinois went from an underdog to a favorite against Arizona State.
In other Big Ten games, Michigan State is a 3-point pick against undefeated Michigan, Iowa is a 6-point choice at home against Northwestern, Penn State is a 13-point favorite at home against Purdue and Wisconsin is a 40-point pick against visiting Indiana. That's by far the largest spread in the country, with 31-point pick Boise State over Colorado State next.
Illinois is as high as No. 12 on four Associated Press ballots this week. Doug Lesmerises of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Erik Gee of KMNL radio in Albuquerque, Greg Auman of the St. Petersburg Times and Seth Emerson of the Macon (Ga.) Telegraph think the most of Zook's team.
Eight others list Illinois at No. 13 and six have it at No. 14. The News-Gazette's ballot ranks Illinois No. 17 this week.
The lowest Illinois is ranked on any ballot is No. 22, by Dirk Facer of the Deseret News and Scott Wolf of the Los Angeles Daily News. Wolf is the lone voter with Boise State at No. 1.