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Illini offense has work cut out
By Lindsey Willhite | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 9/26/2010 9:55 PM

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When Ohio State arrives at Illinois on Saturday morning, the Buckeyes will bring more than the No. 2 national ranking and premier Heisman Trophy candidate Terrelle Pryor.

Jim Tressel's defense owns a streak of 27 games without allowing an individual to rush for 100 yards.

That doesn't jibe with Illinois bruiser Mikel Leshoure, the nation's No. 7 rusher (132.7 ypg) who's looking to set the school's post-World War II record by posting a fifth straight 100-yard effort.

Considering Ohio State's streak has a longer life, the Illini are going to need to figure out another way to move the ball if they intend to shock the world in this Big Ten opener.

Illinois' passing game ranks with the worst in the league, which makes it the last thing the Buckeyes expect to affect them.

"If we can make them defend the pass, then they're not going to stop the run," said Illinois offensive coordinator Paul Petrino.

Illinois redshirt freshman quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase completed just 31 passes in the first three games, but Petrino blanches when asked how Scheelhaase must improve.

"It's not all Nathan," Petrino said. "It's the whole offense. We've all got to get better and improve on it. That's what I told them all (last week): 'If you look at it right now, we're one of the better teams running the ball in the country. But we're nowhere near where we need to be throwing the ball - and that's all of you. When it's a pass play in practice, every single guy in here has to get better so we execute better.' "

Spann's spoils: To celebrate Northern Illinois senior tailback Chad Spann's career-high 223-yard effort in Saturday's win at Minnesota, the Walter Camp Foundation rewarded him as the national offensive player of the week. Spann needed just 15 carries to pile up his big numbers in the Huskies' 34-23 win. He jumped all the way to 13th on the national rushing list with 114.5 yards per game.

Stat of the weekend: Since the start of the 2009 season, Illinois and Northern Illinois each have 2 wins over Big Ten foes. There's just one catch: The Huskies needed half as many games (four) as the Illini to reach that total.

Both teams hold wins at Minnesota. Illinois also defeated Michigan in Champaign, while NIU knocked off Purdue at Ross-Ade Stadium last September. That's something Ohio State and Illinois couldn't do last year.

Tweet of the week: Illinois middle linebacker Martez Wilson made the most of his 140 characters when he posted this Sunday afternoon:

"im gone need da 12th man 2 show up at memorial on Saturday & be crazy i dnt want 2 B able 2 hear myself think! yea #thatloud"