Ohio State’s penultimate home game this season kicks off at 3:30pm ET when the Buckeyes, the conference’s lone undefeated, plays host to Illinois, essentially the worst team in the B1G TEN. Did you know this is technically a rivalry game? It’s true. Illinois was Ohio State’s usual season finale after the Buckeyes joined the Western Conference. To commemorate the “rivalry”, honorary societies at both universities offered a live turtle as a prize for the winner of the game. That turtle, Illibuck, introduced into the “rivalry” in 1925 died two years later. It was replaced by a wooden turtle that will have the scores of the games marked on its back. Fortunately for us, the Buckeyes had the epiphany that it was Michigan, and not Illinois, that is our true rival and which must be obliterated from the face of the Earth. Thereafter, Ohio State will turn its attention to “the world”, that has wronged The Ohio State University and otherwise served as an enabler for the International Wolverine Conspiracy.
As for Illinois? It got lost in the shuffle once Ohio State found its true Other in That Team Up North. The Buckeyes and the Illini play for the Illibuck, and thus it’s a “rivalry”, but the football team never sees the trophy. The honorary societies for both Illinois and Ohio State (at Ohio State: Romophos) are the keepers of the turtle, and its passage is, if I recall, on a year lag.1 The series itself, a “rivalry” in name only, got awfully one sided after Red Grange graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Grange never lost to the Buckeyes, but the Illini did its fair share of losing to Ohio State thereafter. Illinois won only 11 games in the series from 1926 to 1978, Woody Hayes’ last season. Illinois was 8-4-2 in the series until 1925. Now: Ohio State is 64-30-4 all time. Woody Hayes did wonders to kill this “rivalry”, much like Bo Schmebechler effectively ended the Little Brown Jug series. Woody Hayes was 22-4-2 against the Illini. Only John Cooper seemed to struggle with Illinois.
My preview went online yesterday. Really, it’s Ohio State’s job to not dick around. Both teams are on noticeably different trajectories since they last met and another loss for the Illini means it is ineligible for the postseason. Can we blow the doors off an inferior opponent? We had our chances against Indiana and Purdue recently and could not capitalize, leading to exciting (I guess) finales. Ohio State needs a blowout win entering the bye week. Let’s hope we get one. Live blog is below. I’ll see you there.
- For example, Ohio State handed the Illibuck to Illinois, in Champaign, in 2008 after the Illini beat Ohio State in 2007. Ohio State beat Illinois in 2008, but could not collect the Illibuck until 2009. It’s kind of stupid. [↩]