|Michael Thomas, left, and Braxton Miller (AP)|
COLUMBUS — Most will look at Saturday's college football tilt between No. 6 Ohio State (9-0, 5-0 Big Ten) and Illinois as simply a sparring session for the undefeated Buckeyes.
Of course, none of those thoughts are resonating from the OSU locker room — they understand that Illinois (2-6, 0-4) can certainly play the role of David. In fact, the last time the Buckeyes were unbeaten this late in the season (10-0 in 2007), it was the Illini who came into Ohio Stadium and handed the hosts their head.
Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer isn't worried one bit about the Buckeyes looking past their upset-minded visitors this time around.
"Well, these players know Illinois," Meyer said. "Illinois has had more draft picks than Ohio State the last few years, certainly more first- rounders. They've won in Ohio Stadium, so I'll bring that up.
"But at the end of the day they'll look at me and say, 'Move on, Coach, let's go.' The thing is us getting better. There is a lot of film on us getting better, and a lot of film on (Illinois) that at times looks very good. So there is no issue getting these guys ready.
"Lot of respect for Illinois."
The coaches are also quite familiar with one another, being on the same staff together at Bowling Green back in 2001-02.
Illinois head coach Tim Beckman was Meyer's defensive coordinator at BGSU, and admits they are very close friends ... and competitors.
"Urban's considered one of my close friends and we're very, very competitive," Beckman said. "It's one of those things that the uniqueness of college football has is that you have two friends that get to compete against one another."
Meyer said he'll have no problem trying to take down his good buddy on Saturday afternoon in the Horseshoe.
"Not difficult at all," Meyer said. "I love Tim. Tim was on our staff. He's a great coach, great person. I like his dad even more than I like him. I call him the real Coach Beckman.
"But it'll be good to go."
Unfortunately for Beckman, it's not Meyer he and his Illini will be trying to corral. According to the Illinois mentor, all eyes will be on Buckeyes' star sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller.
"He's a special football player," Beckman said of Miller. "I saw it in high school. He was fabulous at (Huber Heights) Wayne, and you knew he was going to be an outstanding college football player.
"We're going to need to know what Braxton is doing at all times. He's very important to their offense. I know our players are excited about playing against Ohio State and what they've done offensively. I think they're averaging close to 40 points a game and (Miller's) been a big part of that, so we're going to need to have awareness of where he's at and be able to put some pressure on him, because he can beat you with his feet and his arm."
Illinois has a dual-threat quarterback, as well, in junior Nathan Scheelhaase. However, the Illini offensive front hasn't been kind to him recently, allowing the opposing defense to pin their ears back and tee off on their talented, veteran signal caller.
Beckman knows that must change this Saturday in Columbus if his team has any thoughts of playing the role of giant-killers.
"We've got to get off the ball a little bit quicker and do some more movement-type passing," Beckman said. "Protection-wise, we've kept backs in, we've kept tight ends in to chip and help protect, but we've got to continue to strive to do better. It still comes down to a one-on-one battle when they're blitzing, so you've got to win."
This isn't 2007.
The talent gap between the two sides makes the Grand Canyon look like a prairie dog burrow.
Only 11 teams in the FBS have scored fewer points per game than the Illini have this season, and only nine have generated less total yardage. In Layman's terms: Illinois' offense is horrid.
The Buckeyes are averaging 20 more points a game than Illinois, and are beginning to look more and more like an Urban Meyer-led unit every time out. And Meyer-led teams don't fall victim to inferior competition.
Simply said ... Goliath will be the one holding the stone this time!
Prediction: OSU 45-14