AAC College Football Friday Odds: Illinois Fighting Illini at (22) South Florida Bulls

Big South Tournament
South Florida is 17.5 point favorites at home against AAC rival Illinois.

Illinois at South Florida
Time: 6 PM (CT)
Spread: SFLA -17.5
Total: 51.5

Odds c/o 5dimes

Hurricane Irma put a halt to the two-game winning streak the South Florida Bulls began its season with. The Bulls knocked off San Jose State in Week 1 and Stony Brook in Week 2 but had its Conference opener derailed by the massive storm that rocked Florida last week.

Its week 3 matchup against UConn is to be rescheduled.

This week, South Florida will turn its attention to the Illinois Fighting Illini in Week 3, as it hosts Illinois as heavy 17.5 point favorites according to college football oddsmakers at 5dimes.

The over/under for the game is set at 51.5 points, as well, for the game which will air at 6 PM (Central) on ESPN.

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The Bulls entered the season as the favorites to win the AAC, and through two relatively easy games, there is nothing to suggest that will not be the case, really. Quinton Flowers and his top two backfield mates, Darius Nice and D’Ernest Johnson, are all primed to rush the Bulls to a good season. South Florida already has 468 rushing yards through two games, making Flowers’ mediocre completion percentage (55.6 percent) something of an irrelevant worry.

While the Bulls have been rushing early and often, the team is tallying just 3.8 yards per carry—which is certainly a mark that can be looked to be improved upon. However, Tice has already been responsible for three of the team’s six rushing TDs, and Flowers really may just be getting going. Last season, the 6-foot 215-pound quarterback rushed for 1,530 yards and averaged 7.7 yards per carry, with 18 TDs on the season. Now a senior, he should be only primed for his best season yet, his third as a starter for a program that has become the dominant and feared force in the AAC.

Flowers will, however, need to improve his passing accuracy. Last season he was good for a very respectable 62.5 percent completion ratio on 2,812 total yards (207 of 331 on the year). As a sophomore, he was a shred under 60 percent and tallied nearly 2,300 yards. He is capable of being a strong dual-threat quarterback, and against tougher defensive units we may see a bit more of what he is made of. That will not necessarily be this week.

Illinois has been something of a pushover for the stronger AAC teams like South Florida, and the Fighting Illini ranked just No. 94 in the nation in scoring defense, surrendering 31.9 points per game. Its rush defense was particularly abysmal in ranking No. 105 while giving up 219.2 yards per game. While the Illini do return four defensive starters, two of them are in the secondary, and it could be a really rough game for defensive coordinator Hardy Nickerson as he tries to figure out some way to get blood from oranges with his mediocre defensive talents.

The fact that his son, Hardy Nickerson Jr., graduated as one of the best defenders on that poor unit hardly helps its case.

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Illinois has had a nice start to its 2017 season, though. The Illini opened Week 1 with a 24-21 victory over Ball State, and it defeated Western Kentucky 20-7 in Week 2. The thing is, neither of those schools was supposed to present a massive challenge, and South Florida absolutely does. Illinois gave up 171 rushing yards to Ball State, including a pair of TDs and the passing game was hardly shutout either, as the Cardinals threw for 204 yards on 21 of 34 passing against Illinois.

Overall, Illinois’ defensive weaknesses are just too much to overcome in Week 3, as it braces itself to suffer a loss to the nationally ranked Bulls. College football oddsmakers have set the line over two-touchdowns in favor of South Florida, but this is one that could approach a three-touchdown spread with little problem if Flowers really gets it going on the ground, not to mention the other Bulls’ rushers.

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