Colin: Illinois has a long history of being a flaming orange pain in the ass and this is the trap game of all trap games. Is there an upset scenario?
Baver: Definitely the biggest trap game of the year. The wind in Memorial Stadium can make life hell on a QB. It’s hard to gauge what you’re going to get from the Illini. They played Iowa, Wisconsin and Nebraska tough, but got rolled by North Carolina and Penn State. Illinois is much tougher at home than they are on the road. I tend to think the Barrett-led Buckeyes get their offense back in gear. If OSU does start slow, Urban may choose to button things up, trusting his defense to get it done. I think we’ll know early in this one whether it will be a blowout or an ugly game where Ohio State simply wants to escape with a win.
Colin: It is assumed that JTB's return will cure all that ails the offense. Is it really that simple or are we expecting too much?
Baver: It’s not that simple, but his return is going to help this offense leaps and bounds. But the Bucks are still hurting (literally) at WR and the O-line is still not performing up to expectations. We’ll obviously learn a lot more about this offense a week from Saturday when Sparty comes to town.
Colin: How does this year's defense compare with the great Buckeye defenses of the past 25 years? Top, bottom or middle of the pack?
Baver: I think it’s definitely in the top tier, but it’s still hard to tell how good they really are with the competition they’ve played so far. 6 of OSU’s first 9 opponents rank outside the top-80 in total offense. Talent wise, I think it’s in the top 3 at a minimum. And Bosa is one of the top 2 or 3 defenders I have seen play here.
Colin: Zeke's Heisman door is opening a little wider each week. Is it his to lose now?
Baver: The oddsmakers still have Leonard Fournette and Derrick Henry as the favorites, but it’s tightening up with Zeke continuing to rack up 100+ yds every game. And the Bucks had a tailback win the Heisman in 1955, 1975 and 1995, so Zeke’s gotta keep the 20-year rule alive, right? Of note, teams have stacked the box all year to stop Zeke, yet Bama didn’t sell out at all to stop the run and still held Fournette to 31 yards.
Colin: Speaking of rising stars, Tom Herman is burning bright right now. Forget about open jobs, what are the chances a big school like LSU, Georgia or Texas, decides to make a move and nab him before it's too late?
Baver: I don’t think Miles is going anywhere at LSU but Richt is probably out at year’s end and Charlie Strong is on thin ice. I wasn’t ready to go this far a month ago, but the big time programs are now ready to hire Herman. If Richt is indeed out at year-end, Herman has to be near the top of their candidate list.
Colin: Give us an update on your picks to date and what game and lines will you be watching this weekend?
Baver: I had the #’s wrong last week, but these should be right: 18-8-1 against the spread, including 7-2 ATS on the Ohio State games. I like the Bucks laying the 16 1/2 this week. It’s a trap game but it’s the second lowest Buckeye spread of the year next to Va Tech. I like the Bucks 38-17. I think Minnesota will be out of gas after playing Michigan and Ohio State the last two weeks, so I like Iowa at home laying the 11 1/2 against the Gophers. And I like Stanford -10 at home against Oregon. I usually like the dogs, but I see no underdog that jumps out at me this week.