Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Illini Open as a 5-Point Favorite over Nebraska

October 23, 2022

After dual bye weeks, first-place Illinois is headed to Lincoln as a nearly touchdown favorite over Nebraska on the opening line. Circa Sports opened the line for Illini-Huskers at Illinois -5 on Sunday afternoon with a total of 56.5.

Illinois (6-1, 3-1) enters the game in sole possession of first place in the Big Ten West Division. The Illini lost their second game of the season, 23-20 to Indiana, but have won five straight entering Saturday, including consecutive wins over the preseason favorites in the division––Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota. Illinois, in its second season under head coach Bret Bielema, is limiting teams to 8.9 points per game (first nationally) while running back Chase Brown leads the nation with 1,059 rushing yards on the season.

Nebraska (3-4, 2-2) has a chance to make things interesting with a win on its home field, maybe its best chance to stay in the division-title conversation. With a win the Huskers would be in a three-way tie for first place after Saturday. Nebraska, Illinois and Purdue, which is idle, would all be tied atop the division after Saturday at 3-2 in conference play. The Huskers would have a win over the Illini and Purdue would have its Oct. 15 win over Nebraska as immediate tie-breakers. Illinois and Purdue don’t play until Nov. 12.

The Huskers enter Saturday with one of the top-30 passing offense based on yards per play (30th, 8.5), while the Illini rank first nationally allowing just 4.7 yards per attempt. The Illini average 4.39 yards per carry on the ground while Nebraska’s defense ranks 119th at 4.90 yards allowed per carry.

ESPN’s updated Football Power Index would make Illinois a 6.7-point favorite, assuming a 2.5-point home-field advantage for Nebraska. The Illini are ranked 34th nationally this week with an 8.3 rating, the Huskers 71st with a -0.9 rating.

Nebraska and Illinois kick off at 2:30 pm CT on ABC.

Elsewhere this week in the Conference of Big Shoulders:

Northwestern at Iowa -9: Godspeed to everyone who chooses to watch this game. The Wildcats (1-6, 1-3) remain winless in the United States, allowing a 75-yard touchdown run in the final four minutes to lose to Maryland 31-24. The Hawkeyes (3-4, 1-3) switched quarterbacks at halftime and, believe it or not, that didn’t seem to be the solution for the worst P5 offense in the country. To be fair, it was on the road against Ohio State, which won 54-10 as Iowa lost three fumbles and threw three interceptions. The Hawkeyes’ defense scored the lone touchdown, but maybe that goes without saying at this point.

Rutgers at Minnesota -10: The Gophers (4-3, 1-3) have a chance to get back on track after losing two straight, the latest a 45-17 pasting at Penn State without starting quarterback Tanner Morgan. The Scarlet Knights (4-3, 1-3) really need this one to keep bowl hopes alive as its final four games are against Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State and Maryland. Noah Vedral had all of the pass attempts on Saturday’s 24-17 win over Indiana, the Knights’ first home Big Ten win since 2017.

Ohio State at Penn State +15: There are only three teams in the Big Ten and here are two of them. The Buckeyes (7-0, 4-0) rank second nationally at 49.6 points per game, the Nittany Lions (6-1, 3-1) rank 20th nationally allowing 18.9 points per game. That said, the only thing you’re likely to hear about this week is James Franklin, in his ninth season at Penn State, is 1-9 against top-five teams.

Michigan State at Michigan -21: Both teams were off last week ahead of the Mitten Melee. That’s not what this in-state rivalry game is called, but it should be. Let’s hope the Spartans (3-4, 1-3) do something fun like stomp on the logo in pregame or the Wolverines’ (7-0, 4-0) initiate a tunnel skirmish or something–as is tradition–because this one isn’t projected to be all that competitive once the clock starts.

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