It’s been a weird few weeks for Ohio State, but through it all, the Buckeyes are still in the driver’s seat for the Big Ten East title. They’ll get a freebie against Illinois before traveling to Ann Arbor in the their final regular season Game. For the Illini, the Buckeyes are huge -39.5 point favorites as seen at 5Dimes Sportsbook.
Ohio State has been all over the place, from getting destroyed by Iowa to beating Michigan State by 45 points. One thing remains the same, though, in that the Bucks have beaten the worst Big Ten teams on their Schedule (Rutgers, Maryland, Nebraska) all by at least 42 points. As it turns out, Illinois might be the worst team in the conference, still without a Big Ten win. The only positive is that the Illini haven’t been blown out by that much in any of their losses since the 45-16 result against Iowa. On the other side of that, they haven’t seen a team like Ohio State yet.
If the Buckeyes play like they did last week, look for J.T. Barrett and J.K. Dobbins to have another huge day. That should be possible because while Illinois is only giving up 28.4 points per Game, they haven’t seen an offense like this. Barrett might be out of the Heisman picture with six interceptions in his last two Games, but this is looking like another Game in which he could throw for 300 yards, a few touchdowns and then add a couple more on the ground. Dobbins and Mike Weber should also have their way rushing the ball against a defense that allows 4.5 yards per carry.
If Ohio State reaches 50 points or more, that will mean Illinois needs to hit at least 10 if it wants to cover. The Buckeyes shut out Rutgers, but gave up 14 points to Maryland and Nebraska earlier in the season. But if they put the same kind of performance in as seen last week against the Spartans, it’ll be hard for a team with eight passing touchdowns and 17 interceptions to score.
Because of injury, Jeff George Jr. returned under center last Game for the Illini and he did about as well as expected. He’s completing just 51.9% of his passes (181 pass attempts) to go with 10 picks and provides little mobility in the pocket. The Illini will try and run the ball with their lone healthy running back in Kendrick Foster. The problem is that they are averaging 3.3 yards per carry as a team (sacks included) and Foster has had limited success against weaker defenses in recent weeks.
This spread could probably be seven points higher and it’d get about the same amount of action. Taking the Illini will be a bold move in this situation, no matter how many points it is.
The Fighting Illini are 1-5 ATS in their last six road Games, while the Buckeyes are 2-5 ATS in their last seven home Games and 1-5 ATS vs. a team with a losing record. Ohio State is 4-1 ATS in the last five meetings between these schools with OSU winning 28-3 when these teams met in 2015. At that point, Illinois actually had a winning record, though.
Our Pick – OVER 53