Illinois Fighting Illini at Fresno St Bulldogs, Bulldog Stadium, Fresno, CA
Friday, December 3, 2010, 10:15 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN2
Opening Line: Illinois -7
Current Line: Illinois -5
Opening Total: 60
Current Total: 57
Money Line: Illinois -235 / Fresno +195
Last year in the first ever meeting between these two schools Fresno St went to Illinois and upset the Illini 53-52. This year Illinois looks to return the favor in Fresno. Both teams are going to bowl games, as Illinois is 6-5 and Fresno is 7-4. Illinois is playing their first ever road game at a WAC opponent. Illinois coach Ron Zook has been under fire and becoming bowl eligible in the rugged Big 10 will probably be enough to save his job, but we don’t really know what the Illinois administration might do. Fresno is 3-11 ATS at home in the last 3 seasons, and is 8-18 ATS on grass fields over the same period.
Illinois is coming off a 48-27 blowout victory over rival Northwestern at historic Wrigley Field. Illinois is outscoring opponents 33-24 on the season. Illinois averages 385 yards a game including 236 yards on the ground per game. They give up 342 yards a game, and the Illini have a turnover ratio of +5. The offense is led by dual threat quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase. Scheelhaase has over 2,200 combined rushing and passing yards on the season along with 19 total touchdowns (16 passing) and 8 interceptions. A.J. Jenkins (44 catches, 619 yards, and 6 touchdowns) and Jarred Fayson (33 catches, 318 yards, 1 touchdown) are the leading receivers. Besides star running back Mikel Leshoure who has 15 catches and 3 touchdown catches, no other Illini receiver has more than 9 catches. Leshoure also has 233 carries for 1,371 yards and 13 rushing touchdowns on the season. Back-up Jason Ford only has 81 carries but does have 7 rushing touchdowns. Ford even threw a touchdown pass out of the wildcat formation earlier in the season. Illinois is also good at getting teams off the field on third and fourth downs. They have held opponents to a 36% successful conversion rate on 3rd and 38% on 4th down. Conversely, the Illini themselves are converting 41% on third down and an amazing 80% on fourth down.
Fresno St is 7-4 on the season with losses to Ole Miss, Hawaii, Nevada, and Boise St. Fresno is outscoring their opponents 31-30 on the season. Seeing that you would think Fresno plays a lot of close games but actually, they have only three games decided by 6 points or less. Every other game has been decided by 14 points or more on the season. Fresno is outgaining 372 yards to 352 yards per game. Fresno has a turnover margin of -9 and has forced 33 sacks on the season, but the Bulldogs have also allowed 30 sacks of their own. The offense is led by quarterback Ryan Colburn. Colburn has thrown for over 200 yards a game on the season. He has thrown for 18 touchdowns and 9 interceptions on the season. He has also rushed for 3 touchdowns. Jamel Hamler is the Bulldogs’ leading receiver with 40 catches, 633 yards, and 5 touchdowns. 10 Bulldogs have at least one touchdown catch. Robbie Rouse is the leading rusher with 191 carries, 1,097 yards, and 8 touchdown runs. Rouse also has two touchdown catches on the year.
There is a 30% chance of rain for this game, but it shouldn’t slow down these two potent offenses too much. Fresno must protect the quarterback and the ball better if they hope to duplicate their victory last year. Neither of these teams have much to play for as they both know they have secured a spot in one of the bowls. Illinois has revenge on their mind, but both of these teams might play rather cautiously to avoid serious injury before the Bowl Games begin.
Our college football handicappers have plenty of winners to stuff your stockings. have a great holiday season as the college regular season winds down and the bowls start.