Ohio State 23, Illinois 16
-- Ohio State is still undefeated -- barely.
The second-ranked Buckeyes remained on the road for a national title as Maurice Hall ran for a touchdown in overtime for a 23-16 victory over Illinois today.
Ohio State improved to 12-0 for the first time in school history, and next Saturday plays rival Michigan needing a victory to play in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 3 for its first national crown since 1968.
"It's the biggest game of the year. It's our arch rival, and if we win we, go to the Fiesta Bowl," linebacker Cie Grant said.
Illinois (4-7, 3-4 Big Ten) nearly spoiled the season for Ohio State. John Gockman kicked a 48-yard field goal on the last play of regulation for a 16-16 tie as the ball just barely fell inside the left upright.
After Hall's touchdown run, the Illini had a chance to tie, but a third-down pass from John Beutjer into the end zone was called incomplete because officials ruled receiver Walter Young bobbled the ball as he went out of bounds.
On fourth down from the Ohio State 9, Beutjer's pass attempt was batted down, giving the Buckeyes yet another close road win
It was the second straight week the Buckeyes struggled on the road against a team with a losing record, only to pull out a win in the end. Ohio State trailed Purdue last week but won, 10-6, when Michael Jenkins caught a 37-yard touchdown pass with 1 minute 36 seconds left.
"Nobody said winning the Big Ten championship would be easy," Jenkins said.
Ohio State kicker Mike Nugent had three field goals today, the last a 27-yarder that put the Buckeyes up 16-13. Nugent later missed a 41-yard attempt into the wind with 5:31 to go. It was Nugent's second miss of the game, the only two he's missed all year.
The Buckeyes played without running back Maurice Clarett, who was in uniform but never got in the game. Clarett re-injured his left shoulder last month in a win against Penn State and has played little since. In last week's win over Purdue, he had 14 carries for 52 yards.
While the road trips are over for Ohio State, Michigan still looms. The Wolverines ended Ohio State's bid for perfect seasons in 1995 and 1996.
Leading 6-3 at halftime, Ohio State gave up its first touchdown in a month when Beutjer threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Walter Young. Beutjer froze Ohio State's Dustin Fox on a pump fake, and Young ran past the defensive back and into the end zone.