Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Greetings from central Illinois, where it's definitely mid-November. No snow or rain yet, but the temperatures are falling and the wind is blowing to the southwest at a good clip. It feels a lot like Kinnick Stadium last week.
As you might have heard, Illinois did a bit of home improvement, and from what I've seen so far, it's very impressive. This is a good example of a stadium project that preserved the original structure but added necessary modern amenities. Too bad the guys who renovated Soldier Field didn't follow the same thought process.
Despite the early kickoff, the tailgating scene was buzzing this morning. There are quite a few Buckeyes and Illini fans staying in my hotel, and I spotted a custom-designed Illini Winnebago outside this morning. Very cool. It was cold and rainy last night, but a few "O-H-I-O" chants could be heard on Green Street.
No. 11 Ohio State enters today's game at 8-2 overall, 5-1 in Big Ten play. The Buckeyes can clinch a share of the Big Ten title by winning today and next week against archrival Michigan. But to win the Big Ten's Rose Bowl tiebreaker, Ohio State must win out and hope Penn State loses one of its last two games. Despite the loss to Penn State on Oct. 25, it seems like this team is hitting its stride right now.
The defense has played pretty well since the USC game, and the offense turned in arguably its best performance of the season last week at Northwestern. Ohio State has won a school-record 14 consecutive Big Ten road games, stretching back to 2005.
Keys for the Buckeyes:
Keep contain against Illinois quarterback Juice Williams, not allowing him to get outside the pocket
Establish the run game early with Chris "Beanie" Wells
Allow Terrelle Pryor to continue to take shots down the field
Illinois is nearing desperation mode, at 5-5 overall and 3-3 in Big Ten games. The Illini have alternated wins and losses ever since Sept. 13. If the pattern continues, they'll win today (go figure). But Illinois needs at least one win in its final two games to avoid the dreaded Rose Bowl to no bowl tumble.
Consistency has been the biggest problem for Ron Zook's team, and it starts with Williams. The junior racked up nearly 2,000 passing yards and 16 touchdowns in his first seven games, but he has thrown seven interceptions and only four touchdowns in the last three contests. Linebacker Brit Miller leads a defense that has allowed 17 points or more in every game this season.
Keys for the Illini:
Challenge Ohio State's secondary down the field with Arrelious Benn and other wideouts
Limit Wells' production by swarming to the ball
Make a big play or two on special teams, which isn't easy against Ohio State