Schedule preview: Illinois
Buckeyes renew acquaintances with Beckman, Scheelhaase in November
Illinois at Ohio State
Nov. 3, at Ohio Stadium (Kickoff and television TBA)
About the Fighting Illini
2011 record: 7-6 (2-6 Big Ten)
Ohio State all-time against Illinois: Buckeyes lead series 63-30-4
Last year: The Buckeyes pulled off an upset on the road against the No. 16 Illini, riding Daniel Herron in his return from suspension with 23 carries and the game-winning touchdown in the third quarter of a 17-7 win.
Key losses: WR A.J. Jenkins, RB Jason Ford, RB Troy Pollard, K Derek Dimke, DE Whitney Mercilus, OL Jeff Allen, FB Jay Prosch, LB Ian Thomas, DB Tavon Wilson
2011 statistical leaders (* denotes returners)
Rushing: Scheelhaase* (624 yards, 6 touchdowns)
Passing: Scheelhaase* (2,110 yards, 13 touchdowns, 8 interceptions)
Receiving: Jenkins (90 receptions,1,276 yards, 8 touchdowns)
Tackles: Brown* (108)
Sacks: Mercilus (16)
Interceptions: Hawthorne* (3)
What they're saying: "With the offense we're installing in Champaign, it will be a dual-threat offense. You'll see two running backs in the football game at times. You'll even seen two quarterbacks in the football game with Miles Osei lining up at running back also. So it's a commitment that our offensive staff has made to running the football and we've got to establish the run first for us to be successful." -- Illinois coach Tim Beckman
Three things to watch
1. Familiar foe: Nobody around the game in the first week of November should need much of an introduction to the new coach at Illinois. The state of Ohio knows him well after his recent run of success at Toledo. He's familiar at Ohio State after spending two seasons coaching cornerbacks in 2005 and 2006. And he knows the new Buckeyes coach well after serving under Urban Meyer at Bowling Green. Beckman shouldn't have any trouble preparing his teams for what to expect -- but the Buckeyes will have a pretty good idea about what style is coming there way as well.
2. Double trouble: Nathan Scheelhaase might not be the first name that comes up in the dual-threat quarterback conversation. He probably isn't even the third or fourth mentioned in his own conference, but the junior has a knack for picking up yardage on the ground and enough accuracy with his arm to be a handful for almost any defense. Scheelhaase led the Illini in rushing last season while completing 63 percent of his passes, and he'll have the full attention of the Buckeyes.
3. On the line: A bye week is sandwiched between the visit from Illinois and a trip to Wisconsin, but the start of November officially begins a difficult stretch run for Ohio State. It also represents a chance for them to heavily influence the Big Ten race despite not being able to win it, and if the Illini have designs on contending this fall, they'll have to find a way to contain Buckeyes quarterback Braxton Miller and deal with a team that could be building momentum for the final two games it will play this season.