UI-Ohio State: 5 keys
Bob Asmussen's breakdown of Saturday's Ohio State-Illinois game:
Will Braxton Miller be effective?
A lot will depend on his health. And reports out of Columbus from early in the week indicated he had recovered quickly from a sprained ankle suffered against Nebraska. He is going through the usual freshman adjustment to college football. The passes aren't as accurate as they will be later in his career. But he can run and move the ball down the field. Without Miller, Ohio State's chances to win are greatly reduced.
Can the Buckeyes slow A.J. Jenkins?
Not if they play the same kind of defense as Northwestern and Indiana, who seemed to ignore the Big Ten's leading receiver. Don't be surprised if the Illini go after cornerback Bradley Roby, who said earlier this week that Jenkins isn't "anything special." The Ohio State secondary is on the younger side, which should work to Illinois' advantage. And Jenkins has a way of finding the holes in the defense. And Nathan Scheelhaase has a way of getting him the ball.
Will the stadium stripes look like stripes?
Yes. Mostly. There are going to be dots of red in certain sections, though the Buckeyes fans don't figure to travel in as great of numbers as they have in the past. And some of the Illinois fans aren't going to get the message or forget, leaving some orange spots among the blue. But if 75 percent follow the rules, it will look pretty cool. A suggestion for the next time Illinois tries this promotion: provide the appropriately colored T-shirts for the section. Put a sponsors name on it. That will make it much easier.
Which freshman has the biggest game for Illinois?
Donovonn Young grew up in Texas, but sure seems to know a lot about Ohio State football. So, we'll go with the tailback. Against a solid Buckeyes defense, it will take more than one Illinois runner to crack the code. Jason Ford will get the early carries, but Young and senior Troy Pollard will play early. Young seems to be getting better each week. And the ball exchange issues certainly were given heavy attention during practice.
Does Illinois win the turnover battle?
It will if it wants to win the game. You can get away with negative turnover margin against Northwestern and Western Michigan. But it won't work against the Buckeyes, who will turn Illinois errors into points. Ohio State is a desperate team fighting to stay above .500 after an awful spring and summer. Any breaks the Buckeyes are given will become a problem. Ohio State knows it didn't close the deal last week, partly because of its own turnovers. Lesson learned.