- Associated Press - Thursday, November 12, 2015

No. 2 Ohio State (9-0, 5-0 Big Ten, No. 3 CFP) at Illinois (5-4, 2-3), noon (ABC)

Line: Ohio State by 15 1/2.

Series Record: Ohio State leads 67-30-4.

WHAT’S AT STAKE

A loss to an unranked Illinois team would jeopardize the Buckeyes’ playoff hopes and leave them in a tie with one or both of the teams behind them in the East, Michigan State and Michigan. With three games to play Illinois is one win away from a bowl game in a season in which its coach and athletic director were fired. Getting there could help interim coach Bill Cubit ern the job on a permanent basis.

KEY MATCHUP

Illinois’ improved defense against Buckeye RB Ezekiel Elliott. While the Buckeye quarterbacks get much of the attention, Elliott is the constant in the Ohio State offense, with 1,244 yards (6.4 per carry) and 14 touchdowns. And in often-windy Champaign, a ground game comes in handy. Illinois’ defense gives up 139.4 yards a game, and statistically the Illini are in the middle of the Big Ten pack.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Ohio State: DE Tyquan Lewis. Playing opposite Joey Bosa, the sophomore leads the Buckeyes with 5 ½ sacks. But Illinois and immobile QB Wes Lunt have to worry about more than Lewis. Bosa has 3 ½ sacks and 11 quarterback hurries.

Illinois: RB Josh Ferguson. He returned from a shoulder injury against Purdue last week after sitting out three games. Without him, the Illini could barely run the ball. Against Purdue the senior carried 12 times for 133 yards and Illinois rushed for 382 yards.

FACTS & FIGURES

The Buckeyes will be trying to extend the country’s longest active winning streak to 23 games. … Ferguson’s understudy, Ke’Shawn Vaughn, has quietly rushed for 665 yards, sixth in the Big Ten. … Ohio State leads the Big Ten in scoring with 37.3 points a game. Illinois is giving up 21.7 a game. … News around the Illinois football program has recently been more bad than good, but a win would send the Illini to bowl for the fourth time in six seasons.

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