Ohio State vs. Illinois: What you need to know about Saturday’s game

Ohio State celebrates victory against Rutgers on Nov. 7, 2020.

Buckeyes have won eight straight games vs. Illini

Who: No. 4 Ohio State (4-0) at Illinois (2-3)

When: 12 p.m., Saturday

Where: Memorial Stadium, Champaign, Ill.

TV/Radio: FS1/1410.

Series history: Ohio State leads 68-30-4. This is the first meeting since 2017. The teams play for the Illibuck Trophy, a carved wooden turtle which has been awarded to the winner since 1925. Ohio State has won eight straight games in the series, not counting a 2010 victory that was vacated. The Buckeyes have won each of the last five games by more than 20 points.

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Last game: Ohio State beat Indiana 42-35 in Columbus on Nov. 21, and Illinois won 41-23 at Nebraska.

Coaches: Ohio State’s Ryan Day is 20-1, including 14–0 against Big Ten foes. Lovie Smith is 17-37 in five seasons at Illinois.

Ohio State notes: Ohio State had an almost perfectlybalanced offense last week, gaining 307 yards on the ground on 50 carries and 300 yards through the air. ... Ohio State’s offense line, which includes Thayer Munford, Harry Miller, Josh Myers, Wyatt Davis and Nicholas Petit-Frere, was named to the Joe Moore Award Midseason Honor Roll. It has helped lead the team to 233.2 rushing yards per game. That’s the top number in the Big Ten and ranks 16th in the nation. ... .Garrett Wilson has gained 100 receiving yards or more in four straight games. Cris Carter set the school record with five straight 100-yard games in 1986. ... Justin Fields set a career high with 378 yards of total offense against Indiana (300 passing and 78 rushing). Fields ranks fourth in the nation in quarterback efficiency rating (202.10). He has completed 79 percent of his passes with 13 touchdown passes and three interceptions.

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Illinois notes: Illinois has won back-to-back Big Ten road games (Rutgers and Nebraska) for the first time since 2007 (Minnesota and Ohio State). It won in Lincoln, Neb., last week for the first time since 1924, ending a five-game losing streak at Nebraska. ... Illinois has intercepted three or more passes in consecutive games for the first time in at least 20 years. ... Illinois ranks second in the conference in rushing yards per game (222.4) behind Ohio State (233.3). ... Running back Chase Brown ranks eighth in the Big Ten in rushing yards per game (71.4). Mike Epstein ranks ninth (67.6). ... Illinois started four different quarterbacks in the first four games, the first time that has happened since at least 1975. ... Brandon Peters started the opener but missed the next three games after testing positive for COVID-19. He returned last week to start against Nebraska.

Quoted: Lovie Smith on playing the Buckeyes, “Not many people or teams terrify me or us. We are playing a good football team, and every week they’ve played we’ve seen that. We played our best ball the last time out, and we are excited about playing one of the best teams in college football. It starts with the quarterback. Justin Fields is as good of a player as there is in college football. He is an excellent thrower. He so happens to be one of the best athletes in college football also, so he can hurt you moving around while buying time to throw the football. When you have a guy like that leading the offense, it opens up everything.”

Next game: Ohio State plays at Michigan State (1-3) at noon, Dec. 5.

Prediction: Ohio State 48, Illinois 17.

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